Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

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Continent: North America Country: United States Region: Arizona

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Location Phoenix, Arizona
Airport type Commercial
Overview map Google Maps
Tower 118.70 North
120.90 South
Ground 119.75 North
132.55 West
Clearance 118.10
Approach 128.65 North Arrival
124.10 South Arrival
126.60 North Final
120.40 South Final
Departure119.20 North
126.80 South
ATIS 127.575
Plane Spotting Hotels guide

Phoenix Sky Harbor is located east of downtown Phoenix just north of Interstate 10. The airport has a single access roadway, "Sky Harbor Boulevard", that runs east-west through the central terminal area. The airport has three parallel runways: 8-26 on the north side (north complex), and 7L-25R/7R-25L on the south side (south complex). Generally photography and spotting are welcomed at the airport and the local authorities are friendly to visitors.

Official Spotting Locations

Terminal 4 Garage

The Terminal 4 rooftop garage can offer good views of the east end of the airport, including both runways. Levels 7 and 8 are preferred for photography. The north side faces the American Airlines hub operation as well as runway 8/26. Afternoon landing shots can be taken with a 300-500mm lens. The south side faces the Southwest hub operation. Photography of either ramp is variable depending on the sun (the American side is best photographed in winter, Southwest on summer evenings). During the summer, before sunset, photography is possible of aircraft queuing up to depart runway 25L (south runway); again, a 300mm lens is needed.

Terminal 3 Garage

This garage offers views of both runways as well as the midfield taxiway crossovers (Taxiways Sierra and Tango). Level 4 is preferred, as Level 5 is enclosed by a wire fence and Level 6 is the top and exposed to the sun. The east end of the garage faces the crossover taxiways, and photography is best in the afternoon. A control tower obstructs some of the view. The corners of the parking garage are best for photography, however, beware of shadows falling across aircraft from the control tower and antenna. Since most departing traffic uses the south runway, a good mix of traffic will use the crossover. Both north and south gate areas of Terminal 3 can be photographed from the garage as well.

Terminal 2 Garage

The 2-story parking garage at Terminal 2 is a great location to photograph/spot aircraft on the north runway. Aircraft taxiing on the parallel taxiway are within 50-150mm lens range. Winter sun is good for this location. Go to the top of the parking garage and photograph over the roadway and fenceline (you need to find a gap in the light poles - yes there are some!!). The old mound near the fenceline corner, closer to the taxiway, is still there, but a new tall chain link fence was constructed during 2004 which prevents photography over the fence.

Other Spotting Locations

These spots all require a car to access.

Old Tower Road

Head west and exit the airport on 24th Street. Turn left (south) on 24th Street and turn left on Old Tower Road. Park in the dirt lot next to the street (you must drive over a curb to do this - the street is posted no parking) or at the Best Western south of I-10 and walk back. This spot is good for landing shots on 7R in morning hours, all year.

Cutter Aviation

Continue east on Old Tower Road. Cutter Aviation has an observation deck, located under the old ATC tower. The deck may or may not be open - contact Cutter before spotting or photography. Landing shots can be taken of runway 7R, but need a 300-500mm lens. Cutter does not allow photography of aircraft on their ramp.

South Cargo

Continue east of Cutter on Old Tower Road. Before reaching the Air National Guard base, views of aircraft parked on the South Cargo ramp can be seen through the fence. Ramp clutter may be an issue for photography.

Left Seat Restaurant

Located on Air Lane between 24th Street and 32nd Street, north of the airport. Open weekdays for breakfast and lunch (0600-1400 M-F), the Left Seat restaurant offers good views of traffic on runway 8/26. A rooftop spotting deck is open during business hours, although it faces south and into the sun.

Air Lane

On Air Lane, between 40th Street and State Highway 153, there is a asphalt parking lot with a small tree. This spot offers views of the north runway, although it faces south and into the sun much of the year. Photographs of landings on Runway 26 are possible on summer evenings when the sunset is to the northwest. This spot offers no shade and no facilities, but it is preferred by the local police as a place to spot.

East Economy Lot area

A parking garage is located in the airport's east economy parking lot. This garage may offer good opportunities to photograph landing aircraft on the south runways during summer evenings.

40th Street/Salt River Bank

Leave the airport via the east exit, and head south on State Highway 153. Turn right on University Ave, where the freeway ends, and right on 40th Street. Take 40th Street north until it ends. Park at the end of the road, or drive up the dirt embankment. On top of the dirt embankment, the threshold of runways 25L and 25R can be seen to the north, and landing shots taken for aircraft landing 25L/R in winter sunlight. Departing aircraft from 7L may also be photographed with a 300mm lens in the morning.

Locations to Avoid

The dirt hill north of the Terminal 2 garage, next to the fenceline, is no longer usable due to a fence built in 2004.

Avoid all employee parking lots as they are secured by card access and are guarded. This includes the East Employee parking lot.

Regular Traffic

Landings normally use the North (8/26) and South (7R/25L) runways. Departures normally use the center (7L/25R) runway. The airport normally operates east during the morning (landing 7R and 8, departing 7L) and west from mid-morning through the evening (landing 25L and 26, departing 25R).

Alaska Airlines (Boeing 737-800, 737-900, and possibly 737-700s), British Airways (Boeing 787), Delta Airlines (Boeing 737-800, Boeing 737-900ER, Boeing 767-300ER, Boeing 767-400ER, Airbus A321-200, Airbus A330-900neo), Delta Connection (E175-200LR), Fed Ex (Boeing 777F, McDonnell-Douglas MD-10/DC-10), Southwest Airlines (Boeing 737-700, Boeing 737-800, Boeing 737 MAX 8), Spirit Airlines (Airbus A320-200), UPS (Airbus A300F4-600R (F), Boeing 767-300ERF) and WestJet (Boeing 737-600, Boeing 737-700, Boeing 737-800) are among the most commonly seen airlines at the airport, apart from American Airlines (which has a hub at this airport) types, which include the Boeing 737-800, Boeing 737 MAX 8, Boeing 787-8, Boeing 787-9, Airbus A319-100, Airbus A320-200, Airbus A321-200, Airbus A321-200NX, and regional planes from American Eagle such as the Bombardier CRJ-700/701, Bombardier CRJ-900, and Embraer E175-200LR.

In the past the airport was a well known place where to find several international airliners at the maintenance hangar and Alitalia MD-11, Korean Air MD-11 and Saudia L-1011 are among airplanes known to be spotted there. This is no longer the case since Southwest Airlines bought the maintenance area and does not accept any other airlines' aircraft to be repaired there. However, a former Aerolineas Argentinas Airbus A340 and another Airbus A340, in the colors of Qatar Airways (carrying the Qatari Emir and/or his family) have been spotted there frequently. Condor 767-300ER aircraft can be seen on rare occasions.

Facilities and Transportation

All terminals and remote parking lots are connected by shuttle busses.

Valley Metro runs two bus lines through Sky Harbor. The Red Line goes west to downtown and east to Downtown Tempe, where numerous bars and restaurants are located. There is also a free bus that provides service between the Metro Light Rail stop at 44th Street and Washington and the airport terminals.

Local Resources

Cactus Wings

Visiting PHX

Phoenix Sky Harbor Yahoo Group