Viewing Decks at Airports


Is there any airport in the country that still has the view decks to spot planes?
MKE has the only thing i no that comes close to spotting airplanes. They even let you tune to the ATC. It’s pretty cool!
I thought Kansas City still had one but i’m not certain anymore.


I’ve read that AUS has one although I don’t know where it is. IAH has an area where I’ve seen people park – not really a deck, though.

SMO has one on the southeast side of the field.


LVK (Livermore, CA) has an observation deck next to the terminal. It’s mainly small aircraft but there are several business jets arriving and departing each day.


DFW has an observation area east of the south end of the runways (or did have – I haven’t been down there for quite a while). There are speakers so that you can listen to Tower and Ground.


FLL has one on the south side of runway 9L with speakers…don’t know if it is still open though. Used to be a great spot to watch the blue angels or the thunderbirds using the airport as a staging area during the Air and Sea show weekend in Fort Lauderdale every May. Of course, back in the day you could lay on the hood of your car right at the end of 9L and have the planes land over you.


Since I’m in Chicago right now, I sure wish ORD and/or MDW had one. I managed to sneak in a few fairly low quality shots standing on Cicero Ave. today near MDW, but would have loved to have had a better place to observe and take pics. I talked to a Chicago police officer at MDW and he said that observation was pretty much a thing of the past, thanks to Sept. 11.


RDU in Raleigh, NC has an outdoor deck with metal plaques around the handrails describing common commercial aircraft. It also has speakers that broadcast the tower frequency. There is even a couple of picnic tables and a little play area for kids. It’s pretty nice out there. The one negative is that there is a building in the line of sight to the runway that often corresponds with the exact tuchdown point for the aircraft. So, you get to see approach, then a building, then a plane slowing down sometimes. Also, you can’t really walk there from the passenger terminals.


While not exactly a deck, there are a couple of great places for watching aircraft at LAX.
The In-n-Out Burger on the north side of the airprot is not more than a 1/4 mile from the northern runways.

For indor viewing of the southern runways, the Flght Path Learning Center-Museum offers not only a great museum of LAX but also great views of the southern set of runways along with ATC feed.


And the overlook on Imperial Hill in El Segundo. Take the 439 bus from the airport bus station.


San Jose (SJC) has probably the last ‘traditional’ observation area. In the old terminal(1), a nondescript door just before security leads to an outdoor deck overlooking the runways and the non-jetway parking stands. It’s quite small and can get crowded when relatives turn up to meet/see off a flight.


I used to take my kids and park in the parking lot across Sepulvida from the ends of the northern set of runways. Find a spot along the fence next to the roadway, turn on the aviation radio, and it was heaven. Often you could only see the belly of the plane, not the fuselage painting. The planes were just a few hundred feet off the ground. It was heaven.

Those days were … nearly 20 years ago. I don’t know if you could still do that today.


I know of a couple of obersvation areas in upstate NY.

Albany has a nice observation deck inside the terminal. It’s on the 3rd floor of the terminal so you can see over top of the jetways. They also play the ATC over the public address system speakers - nice touch.

At Syracuse, I don’t know of a deck in the terminal, however, they have a nice parking area for spotters just outside the terminal with a view of the main runway. They also put the ATC on the air. There is a sign in the parking area that tells you to tune into a certain FM radio frequency.

Pretty cool!


Miami International has a spot along runway 12 to the east of the US Customs Building where there are a series of holes in the fence for photographers to use. Aircraft using the north runways need a little zoom, 12 is a perfect shot. The best view is at the tower top where you can find me.


STL has a great area at the west end of the parallels


KCLE still offers an enclosed spectator deck at the end of Concourse B. It used to open out to a deck above the SWA gates but that is closed. The remaining view area offers excellent ramp viewing and unobstructed runway views.
No radio traffic though.



is that the place were there is a row of shops down the bottom of the road. superb place to spot. good for photography if you have good lens. you look down on the a/c there


KFLL (Ft Lauderdale) still has the viewing area open, with the live atc on a loudspeaker. Very nice place to spend a day. Went to KMIA (Miami), couldnt find the holes in the fence, tons of police and airport security everywhere, I didnt really spend alot of time in one place because I didnt have time to explain myself away all afternoon. Just got back from KMCO (Orlando), tons of traffic, but couldnt find a good spot anywhere there.


At KDAL, there is a great location on the southwest side of the top level of the parking structure closest to the terminal. You’ll have to pay for parking, but you can watch Southwest planes (and a couple of American flights) all day long, should you so desire.


Yes, Chicago and Chicago PD is almost ridiculous when it comes to observation. I sometimes wonder if Chicago government isn’t intentionally against all things aviation that doesn’t make money. Midway is all barriers, so once the plane crosses the fence, you can’t see a thing. Law enforcement has told me on numerous occasions to refrain from taking pictures in the vicinity of O’hare. (I guess my HP Digital Camera looks like a real threat.) And, let’s not all forget that former Meigs field is now a mud field that the City would like to call a park - Thanks Mayor Daley.


I took a bunch of pictures last Thursday and Friday at O’Hare. I only spoke to one officer, but I was the one who initiated the contact. I’m a police officer too and I saw an airport officer walk into the Target store where I was spotting. When he came back out, I identified myself to him and told him what I was doing. He didn’t seem too concerned, but admitted that there was a chance someone might call about me. Since I’m an officer and had my ID with me, he didn’t figure I’d have any problems. Never saw another policeman up close the rest of the time I was there.