If you call yourself an #avgeek, it is a requirement to have pulled your car over by an airport and spotted planes at least once. Spotting is a great way to share the love of aviation with family and friends. It’s also a way to impress a date with your aviation prowess. Here are our list of Top 5 locations to watch planes land in North America:
1.) St Maarten – Maho Beach
St. Maarten airport is an avgeek paradise. Due to the small size of the island, the runway is built very close to the beach. On approach, airliners fly between 40 to 100 feet over the narrow beach called Maho Beach. Over time, the popularity of Maho Beach has grown significantly. Hundreds of beach goers now flock to the beach everyday to see the low flying planes. Some brave souls even attempt to ‘fence surf’ by holding on to the blast fence while getting pelted with sand ad hot air from the jet blast of departing aircraft. Sunset Bar and Grill is located just off the extended centerline of the runway. They post the day’s flying schedule right next to their beer lineup.
2.) Los Angeles International Airport – In and Out Burger
What better than the smell of burgers and jet fuel? The In and Out Burger located on the northeast side of the airport is the perfect date compromise for a foodie and an an avgeek. LAX sees its fair share of wide-body aircraft, mainly international flights from overseas. On a typical afternoon, you are likely to see arrivals from Aeroflot, Eva Air, Air France, Thai, Asiana, American, United, Delta and more. The spotting location is less than a quarter mile from the end of the runway.
Google Earth Image
3.) Chicago Midway – 55th and Cicero
Some locals near Chicago Midway refer to the airport as a postage stamp. If you’ve ever flown over the field, you’ll understand why. Located in some of the densest suburbs just outside of Chicago, you’ll see a one mile by one mile square with 5 tightly packed intersecting runways. Every runway is less than 7,000 feet forcing all arriving traffic to carefully manage their energy on approach. For avgeeks, its a huge thrill to stand on the corner of 55th and Cicero or 63rd and Cicero (depending on the wind direction) while the arrival of mostly Southwest Airlines jets fly over your head at just 100-150 feet above the runway. It’s low enough that you can hear the vortices whipping noise over your head after the aircraft passes.
4.) Washington Reagan National – Gravelly Point Park
The Potomac river visual approach into DCA is both exhilarating for passengers and challenging for pilots. Gravely Point Park is your front seat to the action. The park is located adjacent to where planes make their final turn for the runway. With many different airlines at National, it makes for some great spotting of narrow-body aircraft.
5.) DFW International Airport – Founder’s Plaza
Located on the northwest side of the airfield, Founder’s Plaza is a great place to observe the hustle and bustle of one of the nation’s busiest airports. The space is family and dog friendly with picnic tables, steel binocular posts and live ATC audio. Over the course of a couple hours you’ll see at least 40 aircraft land if the airfield is in a ‘south flow’. While American dominates the skies, the deck is located close to the UPS ramp and on the same side as the international terminal. A daily Qantas 747 (soon to be an A-380) and a smattering of international arrivals from Emirates, Qatar, Lufthansa and Korean Air are some of the highlights.
Do you have other places where you love to spot planes? Let us know in the comments below.