Honolulu International Airport

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Continent: North America Country: United States Region: Hawaii
Daniel K. Inouye International Airport/Hickam Air Force Base
Location Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
IATA code HNL (Honolulu)
HIK (Hickam)
ICAO code PHNL (Honolulu)
PHIK (Hickam)
Airport type Mixed-Use Commercial
Website http://hawaii.gov/hnl
Overview map Google Maps
Communications
Tower 118.1 257.8 123.9 273.575
Ground 121.9 348.6
Clearance 121.4 281.4
Approach 118.3 269.0 338.2 118.3
Departure118.3 (West)
124.8 (East)
269.0 (West)
317.6 (East)
338.2 (North-West of Highways H1/H2)
118.3 (West)
124.8 (East)
ATIS 127.9 251.15
Plane Spotting Hotels guide

Honolulu International Airport is the primary gateway to the State of Hawaii, though in recent years, nonstop flights to the outer islands (primarily from North America) have provided alternatives. The field shares runways with Hickam Air Force Base, though the two maintain separate IATA and ICAO identifiers.

Hawaiian Airlines and Island Air maintain their hubs at Honolulu, providing connections between their inter-island flights as well as to and from overseas flights.

The airport has four paved runways (8L/26R, 8R/26L, 4L/22R, and 4R/22L) as well as two water runways (8W/26W and 4W/26W). Of these, 8R/26L, known as the Reef Runway, is the most famous as the first runway built entirely offshore, on a coral reef. Normal operations have departures on 8R, with some inter-island flights using 8L. During the day most arrivals will use 8L, while during the night 4R is used to avoid overflying residential areas. During "Kona Wind" conditions, most departures will use 22L and occasionally 26L, and arrivals will use 26L and 26R.

Official Spotting Locations

Location

Other Spotting Locations

Lagoon Dr. Parking Lot

At the southermost end of Lagoon Dr there are two parking lots that provide a good view of operations on 8R/26L, 4R/22L, and 4L/22R (Lagoon Dr lot) and 4R/22L, 4L/22R (Palekona St lot). A fence can obstruct ground-level shots at both lots, however shots are possible of aircraft when they are high enough so that the fence will not be in your shot. Be aware that when the terror alert level rises, police inspection checkpoints are put up on Lagoon Dr just past Aolele St, so this spot becomes inaccessible.

To reach these spots, turn makai (towards the sea) from Nimitz Hwy or Aolele St onto Lagoon Dr and follow it until it ends.

Although rather close to you (200mm lens gives you a full frame 767), take offs from 8R (which is used most of the time only for departures and only for wide-bodies) are difficult to photograph as you will be facing the sun all day long.

Much better light can be utilized on landings on 4R and 4L where, if you are lucky, both widebodies (also cargo) and military aircraft can be spotted and the mountains of Oahu will provide nice background.

  • Planes.cz sample photo of aircraft landing on 4R (240mm) in early morning light

Iroquois Point

Iroquois Point is a gated community just across the bay west of the airport, however, when you register on the spot, you can drive in and get to the beach that provides good views of aircraft coming to land on runway 8L (where most aircraft land) and taxiing to the Reef Runway (8R). For 8L, a 250mm lens will give you a full frame A330 with sun being behind you. For 8R you will need at least 300mm and in that case heat haze can be a problem. If you succeed, the Honolulu skyline provides a nice backdrop.

  • Planes.cz sample photo of one aircraft taxiing to 8R and one taking off from 8R (300mm) in late afternoon light.

Ke'ehi Lagoon Beach Park

This beach park located near the airport can provide good views of operations. A parking lot at the entrance to the park, next to the tennis courts, provides a good place to watch operations, particularly 8L, 22L, and 22R departures, and 26L, 4L, and 4R arrivals. It is however too distant for photography.

You can also continue down the road through the park to the end, and then walk to the beach. There you can see aircraft departing on 8L and 8R, and arriving on 26L and 26R. Departures will generally be too high, but arrivals, especially for 26R, can be low enough to photograph if you have a long enough lens.

There is a public restroom located in the park, should the need arise.

Aloha Tower

The observation deck at the top of Aloha Tower, located in Downtown Honolulu, offers views of the airport, though aircraft will be too distant for photography. Departures on 8R will seem to fly almost straight towards the tower as they lift off, before beginning their right turn.

Airside Viewing

Airside viewing and photography is possible in some areas due to the absence of glass in the walkways between the gates. These areas are the breezeways located between gates 11 and 12, 13 and 14, 23 and 24, and 25 and 26. Ramp clutter may be an issue.

  • Airliners.net sample photo: medium large (between gates 25 and 26)

Locations to Avoid

Spotting Locations Map

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Regular Traffic

Passenger

Airline Aircraft Lobby
Air Canada 767-300 4
Air China A330-200 8
Air New Zealand 787-9 4
Alaska Airlines 737-800, A320-200 5
All Nippon Airways 787-9 (A380-800 beginning May 24, 2019) 4
American Airlines 757-200, 787-8, A321-200, A330-300 7
Asiana Airlines A330-300 8
China Airlines A350-900 4
China Eastern Airlines A330-200 7
Delta Air Lines A330-300, 757-200, 757-300, 767-300 7
Fiji Airways 737-700, 737-800 4
Hawaiian Airlines A321neo, A330-300, 717-200 2, 3, 4
Japan Airlines 777-200, 777-300, 787-8 5
Jetstar Airways 787-8 4
Jin Air 777-200 6
Korean Air A330-300, 747-400 4
Lanai Air (Mokulele Airlines) Pilatus PC-12 (single turboprop)
Mokulele Airlines Cessna 208 (single turboprop) Terminal 3
Ohana by Hawaiian (Empire Airlines) ATR-42-500 (twin-turboprop) 3
Phillipine Airlines A330-300 4
Qantas A330-300/200 (-200 rarely used) 7
Southwest Airlines 737-800 6
United Airlines 737-800, 737 MAX 9, 757-200, 767-300, 767-400, 777-200 8
WestJet 737-700, 737-800 4

Cargo

  • Aloha Air Cargo: 737-300, 767-300, Saab 340
  • Asia Pacific Airlines: 757-200
  • Cargolux: 747-400 (Friday only)
  • Corporate Air: Cessna 208, Short 330
  • FedEx: DC-10, MD-11
  • Kalitta Air: 747-100/200/SR
  • Kamaka Air: Beech 18, Cessna 208, DC-3
  • Ohana by Hawaiian (Empire Airlines): ATR-72-200
  • Pacific Air Cargo: Cessna 208
  • Transair: 737-200, Short 360
  • United Parcel Service (UPS): 747-400, 767-300, MD-11

Facilities and Transportation

Restroom

A public restroom is available at Ke'ehi Lagoon Beach Park.

Public Transportation

Oahu's bus system, known as TheBus, provides three bus routes that serve the airport terminals. Routes 19 and 20 begin in Waikiki and proceed through Downtown Honolulu before reaching the airport. Past the airport, Route 19 enters Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, while Route 20 proceeds to the Pearlridge Shopping Center in Aiea. Route 31 operates between Tripler Medical Center and the airport via the Kalihi Transit Center. Route 31 previously operated down Lagoon Drive, but no longer does so.