For those of you that love aviation and live in and around the Western United States, this is the article for you. One of the most popular hobbies in the United States is airplane spotting. Many people from around the world flock to the US to see the many aircraft that arrive and depart at our local airports each day. Because I enjoy this hobby myself, I decided to take a small trip and offer some example plane spotting locations and what to look for.
My first stop came after only driving a few miles. Portland International Airport is the largest international airport in the state of Oregon, handling an average of 17, 600 flights per month. Taking into account the large volume of traffic, Portland International is the perfect spot for those that live nearby. Along the river that runs parallel to the airport sits Marine Drive. Marine Drive is on an elevated hill that overlooks the entire North side of the airport, giving you the perfect vantage point to observe takeoffs and landings. If you continue driving along the road, multiple indents in the road provide parking and a place to get out and enjoy the unobstructed view of Portland International. Directly opposite of Marine Drive, is the cell phone waiting area, positioned directly under the most active runway. This free-to-park zone is another great spot, especially if you want to get excellent views of airplanes landing.
After taking a two and a half hour flight, I ended up in beautiful San Diego, California. At San Diego International Airport, more formally known as Lindbergh Field, I could not wait to find a spot to park. At first, I couldn't spot any elevated areas that would give me a vantage point, except a couple of parking garages here and there. After driving for a good half an hour, I noticed a highway overpass to the North of the airport. Pacific Highway provided a great view, with only a power line or two in the way. From here, you can see the entire airport, including the full length of the runway. If you have a little extra time, you can even drive across the small river and over to the Naval Recruiting Base where you can see aircraft taking off frequently.
I think every aspiring airplane spotter should always come prepared. One of the big things you should bring is food and water. Airplanes will not always appear the second you arrive, and you could be parked awhile. Practice patience, and soon enough, the planes will start flying by. Second, I recommend bringing a laptop or portable device that can access the internet. You can use resources like flightaware.com, or the airport's arrival and departure schedules to know when to expect aircraft movement. The third item I recommended is a camera. How else are you going to prove to your friends that you just saw a rare airplane that has been out of commission for 30 years?
Remember, this is only a brief summary of airplane spotting. Not everything on the topic is explained in this article. This is merely an article to explain the hobby and give tips to get you started. I have been airplane spotting for over 5 years and probably haven't gotten close to acquiring 1% of the knowledge on the subject. The fact is, this hobby, like others, is self driven. To gain more knowledge, the only thing you can do is go out there and try it yourself.