airplane photography question


I read on a post that airplane photography is frowned upon at some airports.

I was wondering if it is illegal to take pictures or videos of planes at airports, and if it is what airports?

I live by KRFD , is it legal to take pictures or video there?


I can tell you from the 3 airports that I have worked at, as long as you were on the outside of the fence-line, there was nothing we could do about it. We were not permited to take anyone on the AOA for any pictures without management’s permission.


Photography at the airport is legal. There are some gun-ho cops that may try to restrict your rights but don’t let them.

If you are photographing from outside of an airport and are on private property, I suggest getting the permission of the property owner.

Don’t park in no-parking zones. Not only are you inviting trouble from the cops but you are also making it bad for the rest of us.

An attorney has developed a flyer about your rights as a photographer. Below is an excerpt from Bert P Krages’ page. Please see for further information.

The right to take photographs in the United States is being challenged more than ever. People are being stopped, harassed, and even intimidated into handing over their personal property simply because they were taking photographs of subjects that made other people uncomfortable. Recent examples have included photographing industrial plants, bridges, buildings, trains, and bus stations. For the most part, attempts to restrict photography are based on misguided fears about the supposed dangers that unrestricted photography presents to society.

Ironically, unrestricted photography by private citizens has played an integral role in protecting the freedom, security, and well-being of all Americans. Photography in the United States has an established history of contributing to improvements in civil rights, curbing abusive child labor practices, and providing important information to crime investigators. Photography has not contributed to a decline in public safety or economic vitality in the United States. When people think back on the acts of domestic terrorism that have occurred over the last twenty years, none have depended on or even involved photography. Restrictions on photography would not have prevented any of these acts. Furthermore, the increase in people carrying small digital and cell phone cameras has resulted in the prevention of crimes and the apprehension of criminals.

As the flyer states, there are not very many legal restrictions on what can be photographed when in public view. Most attempts at restricting photography are done by lower-level security and law enforcement officials acting way beyond their authority. Note that neither the Patriot Act nor the Homeland Security Act have any provisions that restrict photography. Similarly, some businesses have a history of abusing the rights of photographers under the guise of protecting their trade secrets. These claims are almost always meritless because entities are required to keep trade secrets from public view if they want to protect them.


Why wouldn’t you be able to take pictures? Where do you live? What country?


FWIW, we operate a fairly high profile aircraft – a Beech Starship. Simply put, it is expected that people are going to take pictures of our aircraft; it happens at almost every airport we go into. If we didn’t want our aircraft’s picture taken, we picked the wrong plane. Additionally, it doesn’t really matter what aircraft we have – in America we are free to take pictures of anything that is out in the open. We could have a Beech Baron, and if someone wanted to take its picture, then they are free to do so.

Where we draw the line is the stalking of our aircraft by some who feel as if they need to challenge us as to why (as in our purpose for the flight) we went to airport x and who was onboard. This is not public information, and as such, it is of no one’s business other than myself and the owner of the aircraft. In fact, I know of one individual who does this to us, and it has us seriously considering blocking our aircraft through the NBAA BARR program – it would be a shame because we (including our families) like looking at our track/performance, and because we operate a Starship, we are pretty certain that others enjoy watching us just the same.

We also draw the line at people at the airport trying to figure out who is onboard. Passenger information is not public information and not something that we share. One can look up the registration easy enough – that much is public information. Additionally, in most states, a really inquisitive person can determine the shareholders of a corporation that owns an aircraft, or the members of an LLC that owns an aircraft. We can’t do anything about that.

Just my .02 worth…

Clear Skies and Tailwinds,

Christopher Dean


Hell! I live in the USA, and I was a guest at the Ramada Inn at JFK, trying out a new video camera, filming approaching airliners as they flew overhead. It took all of 10 minutes of this “suspicious activity” before the cops came to harass me about it. they ran a wants and warrants check on me and then strongly suggested that I discontinue my activity. Although I knew there was really nothing they could do about it, I had an early flight out the next morning with my family and didn’t want to press the issue, so I went back to my room.


Probably becuz some idiot didnt’ know the difference between a harmless camcorder and a shoulder fired intercontinental ballistic missile tipped with nuclear war heads. :smiley: :smiley:

All they saw was you aiming something at a plane. Go figger.



Welcome to the post 9/11 world of fear where everything is suspicious…including how many sheets of TP were used at your last sitting… :unamused:


The amount of terror, distrust, infringement of rights, fear, suspicion and paranoia infused in people – directly correlates with the extent the terrorists win. Tell that to the next cop telling you to put away your camcorder.


You tell it sister…


Than add, “TheButterflyLands…um, sorry, I mean I pay your salary.” That will fly well. :open_mouth:



Don’t tase me Bro!!!


I work at a international airport and it is frowned apoun to take pictures. Outside the fence line is private property. Operations will stop you if you take pictures. I take pictures from in side but I am badged so it different, at least thats what i was told.


I guess it depends on the airport.

Here, at KFLL, there is even a “public viewing area”, just south of the west end of runway 9-27. There’s a parking lot, a couple of picnic tables, and we can walk up to the fence, take pictures, (Some even bring stepladders to be able to take pics over the fence). And there’s also a loud speaker where we can hear the takeoff and landing ATC chat.


I guess you’ve never been to my web site?


I think that’s a smart approach. Give spotters a place to go so they don’t cause concern anywhere else. We used to have a place like that here. My local airport leased a GA parking lot (paid for by us) to the police dept for a precinct. Totally illegal! Even if you drive in there for aviation the fuzz will yell at you.


STL used to have a public viewing area right at the end of the runway, but they closed it to extend the runway. Whole city was so sad to see it go. Wish they’d put another one at the new end of the runway. It’s so far out thought that the tower can’t even see it. I am fortunate enough to see F-15 sorties every single day outta Lambert, sometimes up close while driving under their takeoff which is usually a vertical climb with gusto. I always turn off the radio just to yell YEAH out the window as their burners rattle my windshield.


KDSM used to have an area just northwest of the ANG operations called Bluelights. It was a parking area that faced taxiway Delta along 13/31. You could sit there and watch all the comings and goings. The area was just beyond the fence and extremely close. They had picnic tables and trash receptacles but drinking was outlawed. The cops would roll through but as long as you weren’t breaking the law, they’d let you just sit and watch. When the F16s from the 132nd were doing night training it was unreal to be less than 300 feet from them as they rotated off 13/31. A few years ago they expanded the ANG, lengthened the runways (I believe), and removed the whole area. Too bad…


As a regular to the States on photographic trips, photography of aircraft is not an offence although in the eyes of some officers they would obviously like it to be. It is often a matter of where you take the photos from that causes the problems and kudos to the airfields that still provide some facilities.
Most law enforcement is happy to check the passport and wish us good day: it’s the god-fearing do-good joe public that more often than not gives us untold grief/earache believing we can down an airliner with a Canon (nb not a cannon!)
Watch out PHX when hundreds of spotters descend there for the superbowl traffic and in most cases we dont give a hoot about who is onboard (dont know half the jonny-come-latelys you talk about on some of these forums) but just want to 'graph something rare (beech starship before it hits the smelter) or interesting (Frontier colourschemes).
See also amongst others for amusing chat on this…



Ahh the “Bluelights” … That’s where my love of aviation began. And I used to partake in a few activities, other than watching airplanes, there as well… 8)