Los Angeles International Airport
|Continent: North America||Country: United States||Region: California|
|Los Angeles International Airport|
|Location||Los Angeles, California|
|Overview map||Google Maps|
124.50 Final & Feeder
|Plane Spotting Hotels guide|
Official Spotting Locations
The LAX Theme Building is the iconic building in the middle of the LAX passenger terminal complex, shown in the photo at right. It hosts the Encounter Restaurant as well as an observation deck. Encounter Restaurant occupies the round portion of the building about halfway up. Windows provide views of the airport in all directions, though which parts you'll see depends on where you are seated. The observation deck is located on the roof of the restaurant. It closed in 2001 and reopened in July 2010. It is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 5pm, and there is no charge to enter the observation deck. This location is may be poor for photography, except for airport overview shots, as it is distant from aircraft though it is good for spotters who just which to watch traffic or log tail numbers. The airport occasionally hosts "Sunday Morning Coffee" events at the observation deck for plane spotters, aviation enthusiasts, and the general public.
The airport offers an airfield tour on the first Thursday of each month. For more information, see the LAX Community Relations web page.
Other Spotting Locations
Jim Clutter Park (Imperial Hill)
In the city of El Segundo. A small roadside park at the intersection of Imperial Avenue and Sheldon Street. A few tables and seats, for other facilities you need to walk west down the hill (towards the ocean) to the small shopping plaza. Beach Cities Transit bus route 109 has a stop right at the park.
All movements on the South runways can be logged here although care must be taken not to miss those arrivals which turn off early. Some photography possible when traffic is westerly, few arrivals come far enough down although spectacular departure shots can be had with a long (300-400mm) lens, though shorter lenses work. A 200mm lens is sufficient for any aircraft larger than a 757. On the rare occasions traffic is landing to the East this is one of the finest locations in the land. Aircraft taxiing on taxiways B and C in the general vicinity of the American Airlines hangars, American Eagle remote terminal building, taxiways Q and S, and the Tom Bradley International Terminal can be photographed from here with a sufficiently powerful lens (300-400mm).
At the corner of Sepulveda and Westchester, 10-15 minutes walk from the airport. Small grass area across the road from which all movements on the Northern runways can be seen. Limited photography as arrivals are almost directly overhead, and you are facing South. When a small aircraft (CRJ, ERJ, 737, A320) isn't blocked by the trees, a 55mm or smaller size lens can be used for a nice shot. However, walking to under the approach lights and jaywalking across Lincoln Blvd. can yield some very nice shots of inbound aircraft. Parking in this area is limited (for those driving to the spot) depending on the time of day if you park on the street, and can be sparse during lunch hours (11:00am - 2:30pm).
There is a multi-story car park with good views from the top floor. No photography signs are present, and you will likely be told to leave.
Proud Bird Restaurant
Off Aviation Boulevard beside the approach to the Southern runways. Good landing shots but care must be taken to avoid lampposts and trees. Shots can be taken from both the parking lot, and from the "backyard" where the old planes are on display. A good lens is suggested.
To achieve shots similar to those taken by In-n-Out, walk north on Aviation Blvd. to under the approach path for 25L (you will see the ILS antenna). Be warned as there is no sidewalk, so caution is advised when going for a shot.
Flight Path Learning Center
The Flight Path Learning Center is located at 6661 Imperial Hwy, and was formally known as the "Imperial Terminal". This building used to house some charter flights, and regular scheduled flights from MGM Grand Air. It sat empty for 10 years until it was re-opened as a learning center for LAX. The center contains information on the history of aviation, as well as several pictures of the airport (some notably from famed photographer Sam Chui) as well as aircraft scale models, flight attendant uniforms, and general airline shwag (playing cards, china, magazines, signs, even a TWA gate information sign). If you ask nicely, one of the fine docents (who are usually retired Flight Attendants who started work in the 1950's, or have been working at the airport for many years. Great conversations to be had), they will be glad to open one of the restricted access doors and allow you to stand out on the tarmac (behind a small fence) to get shots of the South side. The center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 3pm. While it does not provide the greatest shots, it is defiantly worth a visit.
- Airliners.net sample photo: medium large
- Airliners.net sample photo: medium large
- Airliners.net sample photo: medium large
Dockweiler State Beach
Along Vista Del Mar, there is a beach. On Vista Del Mar, there is parking along the streets and there are staircases that go down to the beach. You can watch takeoffs from both runways here either from your car, or down on the beach. You can stay as long as you want and since it is far enough from the airport, no one will yell at you for taking pictures. A good lens is suggested, and it may be busy in the summer.
Westchester Parkway Bridge
About 3/4 mile West of the In-N-Out Burger on Sepulveda is a bridge over Route 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) that offers good views for aircraft arriving and departing on the 24s on the north side of the airport. During the winter, this spot is backlit with the sun to the south. The ideal time to utilize this location is summer evenings as aircraft use the 24s. When on this bridge you are very exposed to passing traffic and can make spotting in this location stressful or uneasy.
Locations to Avoid
There are 2 parking lots off the first and second cargo roads respectively. These were good locations prior to September 11, 2001, but are now patrolled frequently by not-very-friendly LAWA police and spotters will be asked to leave. However, a two person operation could be useful. Some have reported good experiences driving through the cargo complex. A common method is to drive constantly, stopping only when no police are around.
Spotting Locations Map
In some cases, airlines operate their check-in counters in a different terminal; this table reflects the terminal where the aircraft park.
|Aeroflot Russian Airlines||777-300ER||TBIT|
|Air Canada||767-300, 787-9, A319, A320, A321||6|
|Air China||777-300ER, 787-9||TBIT|
|Air France||777-200, 777-300ER, A380-800||TBIT|
|Air New Zealand||777-200, 777-300ER||TBIT|
|Air Tahiti Nui||A340-300||TBIT|
|Alaska Airlines||737-700, 737-800, 737-900||6|
|Allegiant Air||A319, A320||5|
|All Nippon Airways||777-300ER||TBIT|
|American Airlines||737-800, 777-200, 777-300ER, 787-8, A319, A321||4, 5|
|American Eagle||CRJ-700 (SkyWest), CRJ-900 (Mesa), E175 (Compass)||5 (Remote)|
|Avianca||767-200, A319, A320, A321||TBIT|
|Cathay Pacific Airways||777-300ER||TBIT|
|China Eastern Airlines||777-300ER, A330-200||TBIT|
|China Southern Airlines||777-300ER, A380-800||TBIT|
|Delta Air Lines||717-200, 737-800, 737-900, 757-200, 757-300, 767-300, 767-400ER, 777-200, A319, A320, A330-300||2, 3|
|Delta Connection||CRJ-700 (SkyWest), E175 (Compass, Republic, SkyWest)||2, 3|
|El Al Israel Airlines||777-200||TBIT|
|Frontier Airlines||A319, A320||5|
|Great Lakes Airlines||EMB-120||6|
|Japan Airlines||777-300ER, 787-8||TBIT|
|jetBlue Airways||A320, A321||5|
|KLM Royal Dutch Airlines||747-400||TBIT|
|Korean Air||777-200, A380-800||TBIT|
|LATAM Airlines||767-300, 787-8||TBIT|
|LOT Polish Airlines||787-8||TBIT|
|Mokulele Airlines||Cessna 208||6|
|Norwegian Air Shuttle||787-8, 787-9||TBIT|
|Qantas Airways||747-400, A380-800||TBIT|
|Southwest Airlines||737-700, 737-800||1, TBIT|
|Spirit Airlines||A319, A320, A321||5|
|Sun Country Airlines||737-800||5|
|Swiss International Air Lines||777-300ER||TBIT|
|Thomas Cook Airlines||A330-200||6|
|United Airlines||737-800, 737-900, 757-200, 777-200, 787-9, A320||7, 8|
|United Express||CRJ-200 (SkyWest), CRJ-700 (SkyWest), E175 (SkyWest)||7, 8|
|Virgin America||A319, A320, A321||6|
|Virgin Atlantic Airways||787-9||2|
|Virgin Australia Airlines||777-300ER||TBIT|
|WestJet Airlines||737-600, 737-700, 737-800||2|
|XL Airways France||A330-200||6|
- AeroUnion (Airbus A300, Boeing 767-300)
- Air China Cargo (Boeing 747-400)
- ABX Air Cargo/DHL (Boeing 767-200)
- Asiana Cargo (Boeing 747-400)
- Atlas Air (Boeing 747-400, Boeing 747-8)
- Cargolux (Boeing 747-400)
- Cathay Pacific Cargo (Boeing 747-8)
- China Airlines Cargo (Boeing 747-400)
- Emirates Sky Cargo (Boeing 777-300)
- China Cargo Airlines (Boeing 777-200)
- EVA Air Cargo (Boeing 747-400)
- Kalitta Air (Boeing 747-200, Boeing 747-400)
- Korean Air Cargo (Boeing 747-8, Boeing 777-300)
- FedEx (Airbus A300-600, McDonnell Douglas MD-10, McDonnell Douglas MD-11, Boeing 767-300)
- Lufthansa Cargo (Boeing 777-300)
- MAS Cargo (Boeing 767-300)
- Nippon Cargo Airlines (Boeing 747-8)
- Polar Air Cargo (Boeing 747-400)
- Qatar Air Cargo (Boeing 777-300)
- Singapore Airlines Cargo (Boeing 747-400)
- United Parcel Service (Boeing 767-300)
Facilities and Transportation
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority operates several bus lines that serve LAX and the surrounding area. Consult their web site for specific information. They also operate the Metro Rail system, with service to LAX provided at the Green Line's Aviation/LAX station, where a free shuttle bus provides connections to the airport terminals.