This blog is geared toward helping fellow enthusiasts identify spotting areas at airports. I've included shots I've taken from those spots to give you an idea of what kind of photos can be expected from each vantage point.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Billings, MT - KBIL

This unique regional airport sits atop a mesa 600 feet above the city.  There is one main air carrier runway which runs east/west (10L/28R) that provides for some great light in the winter. (Just bring a parka) The public viewing area is just off Airport Rd near the approach end of 28R and is clearly marked. Shots can be had from 10L departures or 28R arrivals. 

N169HQ - Republic Airways E-190 departing 10L in high summer sun.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Manchester, NH - KMHT

Located a short 45 miles north of Boston's Logan Airport lies this quaint little regional airport.  Now known as Manchester Boston Regional Airport due to it's geographic location in the region, it's main traffic consists of Southwest.  Traffic has declined here over the years, but if you enjoy runway-side action, it's worth a stop in your travels through the northeast. 

The main viewing area is co-located with the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire and sits alongside runway 17/35.  The sun swings quite early from this vantage point and is really only good for a couple of hours in the morning.

N571FE - FedEx MD-10F rotating runway 35 
N415NP - Nie Planes Lear 60 taxing to runway 35
There is also a crossing runway (06/24) that provides for good views when in use.  There isn't an official viewing area but if you drive towards the main terminal you'll see a health club parking lot you can spot from.  Keep in mind it is not an official viewing area and if asked to leave, do so.
N806MD - Republic Airways E170 holding short runway 6
(Photo by: Eric Trum)

N154GJ - GoJets CRJ-700 landing runway 6
(Photo by: Eric Trum)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Baltimore, MD - KBWI

Yet again we have an airport where Southwest dominates; with the only saving grace being your chance of getting a shot of a special scheme increases.  There are 2 public viewing areas, yet only one provides for any kind of photography. (the other is in the terminal)  Known as the Thomas A. Dixon Jr. Observation Area, this spot provides for some great afternoon photos provided you can find a spot to park.  It is co-located with a playground and bike trail and the 50 or so spots are always full especially on weekends.   Location:

N561UA - United B757-222 landing runway 33L
N33262 - United B737-824
N403QS - NetJets Gulfstream IV

Raleigh Durham, NC - KRDU

Raleigh is another airport that has a great mix of domestic traffic.  Unfortunately with the proliferation of regional jets, you have to watch 5 or so of those operators before being able to get a glimpse of a Boeing or Airbus.  There are 2 parallel main air carrier runways oriented 050 and 230 allowing for great sunlight from morning through to around 2 pm.  The airport is surrounded by trees so afternoon perimeter shots are rare.

The one bright spot is that there is a public viewing area between both runways that is elevated and gives a decent view of the traffic on 23L/5R. (Southwest uses the other runway, so you don't have to be overwhelmed by canyon blue all day)  The viewing area is located north of the passenger terminal and south of the cargo apron next to the FBO.  Signs clearly direct you to the "Aircraft Observation Area".

N535US - Delta B757-251 rotating off 23R
N405US - USAirways 737-401 departing 23R
C-FUJZ - Air Canada JAZZ CRJ-705 wheel up off 23R

If the winds are favoring 23R you get two chances to capture your subject as the aircraft have to taxi by you to get to the end of the runway.

N676CA - Comair CRJ-900 taxiing to 23R

Portland Jetport, ME - KPWM

If you fancy a trip to the northeasternmost state, stop by the Portland Jetport.  There is a public viewing area located just south of the east/west runway which provides for some great views of the entire airfield.
Here is an interesting article about the viewing area:

Photography can be accomplished throughout the entire day as the sun stays low enough to lighten up every subject passing by your lens.  The viewing area is located at the intersection of Westbrook St. and Aviation Blvd.

N294JB - jetBlue E190 landing runway 29

N960AT - Air Tran 717-2BD landing runway 29

N13553 - Expressjet E145 rolling out on runway 29

Albuquerque, NM - KABQ

This is another one of those airports that has a main operator which you'll see more than anyone else. (Southwest)  There are 2 different public viewing areas which cover 2 of the 4 runways.  The first one is just north of the passenger terminal and is abeam the approach end of 17. (a runway not used very often)  The other one is located south of the cargo ramp and GA area which is abeam the approach end of runway 3 or departure end of 21.  Both areas are clearly marked with signs titled "Aircraft Viewing Area".

N555LV - Southwest 737-7BD departing runway 21
N124UP - a very light UPS A300F departing runway 21

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Boise, ID - KBOI

My old home airport doesn't get a huge variety of subjects and is pretty much unshootable in the summer months as the runways run east/west.  During the winter months the sun is low enough throughout the day to catch just about every subject.  There is a mix of commercial, GA, and military (A-10s mostly) that provide a fairly constant stream of traffic.

If they are landing to the east, just head south on Orchard St. just past the approach lighting system and make a right on Wright St.  Approach shots are fairly easy with any lens bigger than a 150mm

N609QX - Horizon CRJ-700
80-0276 - Idaho ANG A-10
N3753 - Delta B737-832
If the traffic is reversed, just make your way to the east side of the airfield on Production St., drive south of the centerline, climb the hill, and you'll see a pullout for your vehicle.  You'll need a little longer lens here as you are farther away from the runway. 

N437QX - Horizon Q400 Boise State colors
N675FE - FedEx A300F
 These two spots are pretty much it as the entire southern part of the airfield is known as Gowen Field and is an active miltary base making any kind of "on the runway" shots impossible.

Paine Field, Everett, WA - KPAE

I don't think much needs to be said about this airport.  It's just where Boeing manufactures their heavy iron. (747, 767, 777, 787)  Thousands of visitors a year make the "pilgrimage" to PAE as part of their visit to the Seattle area's aviation attractions.  Photos can be taken from many locations around the field and it would be a dark day in you know where if you found yourself being the only photographer up there.  The best vantage point is the parking lot of the Future of Flight Museum which allows unobstructed views of the plant's ramp and airfield.  (Just be prepared for the sun to not cooperate with you)

TC-JJN - Turkish B777-3F2ER
N5573S - Cargolux B747-8F during testing
Other areas are located by the control tower and on the south end of the field near the fire station.

N6067E - Boeing Aircraft Co. B747-8i first flight
N787BA - Boeing B787-8 fly-by

Renton, WA - KRNT

Renton Municipal Airport is where Boeing has its narrowbody manufacturing plant.  If you've ever ridden on a 707, 727, 737, or 757, this is where it was born.  About 85% of all the Boeing aircraft that leave here for the first time never come back as they are flown to BFI for outfitting and customer delivery.  Some of the aircraft are painted at Renton and some are flown green to BFI.  Some do return to Renton after their first flight which can lead to some good shots from the public viewing area located at an elevated position just northeast of the Rainer Ave and Airport Way intersection after noon.

N1796B - Boeing 737-900 destined for Turkish Airlines

JA337J - JAL Express B737-846 doing compass swings

Seattle, Wa - Boeing Field KBFI

N787BA - Boeing Aircraft Co. B787-8

This airport is aptly named after the main tennant, Boeing Aircraft Co.  This is where the narrowbodies are flown from Renton to be finished and delivered to customers worldwide. It provides for some interesting subjects you can safely say you'll only be able to see here unless you want to make a trek around the world.  Boeing also uses this airport for flight testing of its other widebody products including the 787 and 747-8 

N1786B - a common Boeing registration for green aircraft
SU-GEB - Egypt Air B737-866
LN-DYT - Norweigian B737-8JP
There are many spots around the airfield to get pictures like the above examples.  The Museum of Flight on the south end of the airfield provides for some good approach shots when landings are being made on 31L.  There is also a haphazardly put together public viewing area just south of the control tower where most of the general public go to watch the happenings at the field.  Other locations can be found by just driving around to see what gives you the best vantage for your subject.  Keep in mind though that most of these areas are parking lots for businesses and if asked to leave, do just that.  Always respect the laws and signs and you should be able to enjoy a hassle free experience.

The airport also has a great variety of traffic other than Boeing that includes major cargo companies, business aircraft, light GA aircraft, and amphibians that frequent the islands in Puget Sound.

N286UP - UPS MD-11F
B-8108 - Deer Jet Gulfstream V

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dallas/Fort Worth - KDFW

N760AN - American Airlines B777-223
There is one sanctioned viewing area at DFW which provides for great photos in the afternoon for all arrivals on runway 18R. It is called Founders Plaza and it has dedicated parking as well as piped in ATC.   Of course you have to expect to be overwhelmed with all things American, but the other subjects might be worth the wait.

G-BNLI - British Airways B747-436 "One World"
HL7437 - Korean Air Cargo B747-4B5F

Fairbanks, Alaska - FAI/PAFA

N96358 - Brooks Air Fuel DC-4
Fairbanks provides for some magnificent memories with many of the movements being of the round engine variety.  Summer is the time to go as the sun is up longer than your body will be.  A car is necessary as the airfield is of substantial size.  The runways are oriented north/south so mornings and afternoons provide the best light for your subjects.

N747CE - Everts Air Fuel DC-6
A side trip took me up to Umiat, Alaska which is nothing more than an airport supporting a drilling operation. The photos below show what was seen.

Crossing the Brooks Range north of the Arctic Circle
N9056R - Everts Air Cargo DC-6 ready to accept the backhaul of refuse
N861FT - Frontier Alaska Reims F406

St. Barts - SBH

St. Barts is a short 15 minute flight from SXM and is well known for its steep approach to a short runway.  The traffic here is sparse and only 2-3 airlines are represented, however the approach makes this a must visit if if you are already planning a visit to Saint Maarten!

After a short walk from the arrival hall you can be on either end of the runway and get some breathtaking shots of the steep approach or departures from the beach.

Princess Juliana - SXM/TNCM

N17133 - Continental Airlines B757-224
This is one of those places people buy thousand dollar airfares to visit only to experience the rush of airplanes approaching over their heads at less than 100 feet.  Some (not me) even enjoy "riding the fence" as the heavies push up the power for takeoff.  The beach generally has more enthusiasts than beachgoers which proves this is a must visit spot for any enthusiast.  While there are many places to take snaps around the field, the most popular is the beach.  The above photo is an example of a shot you can get from the fenceline from midafternoon on as the aircraft taxi onto runway 10 for departure. The reason I'm not showing a landing shot is simply for the fact that all you have to do is type in Saint Maarten any any search engine and you'll see thousands of pictures.