Bradley – Hartford Intl. Airport Spotting Guide

BDL/KBDL is the second-largest as well as the second-busiest airport in New England behind Boston Logan International. It is located about halfway between Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA (and also about halfway between JFK and BOS). Considering that this is a rather small airport compared to its big neighbors in New York and Boston it still sees quite some volume and variety of traffic (passenger, cargo, military, general aviation).

Passenger traffic is usually a bit heavier during the winter time when New Englanders try to escape from the cold. Bradley is linked to almost every major hub in the USA and it is served by most of the major US based carriers. Most frequent visitors are Delta Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue. End of January 2017 it was announced that Spirit Airlines is going to open its first two routes to BDL this year. Currently BDL has just a few international connections, including one intercontinental flight: several times daily service from/to Toronto and Montreal with Air Canada Express (operated by Air Georgian or Jazz), a seasonal connection to Cancun is offered by Delta, and Aer Lingus sends a B757-200 from Dublin four times a week. Late in 2016 it was reported that BDL’s management is negotiating with Norwegian Air Shuttle to establish a flight to an undisclosed destination in Europe in the mid-term future, and rumors say, that WOW air is also looking into flights to Hartford.
Depending on schedule, which can vary quite a bit, it is possible to catch some cargo aircrafts: FedEx as well as UPS each have often two flights a day coming in. FedEx always sends its “Grande Dame” DC-10 to Bradley once a day (usually late afternoon, early evening), but on top B757F, B767F or A300F have also showed up in the past. UPS uses B757F, B767 and/or A300. Due to its proximity to UTC (especially Pratt & Whitney) occasionally visits by special cargo aircrafts/airlines (e. g. Antonov) and test aircrafts (e. g. A320neo in Airbus livery) can be observed. Besides all the commercial traffic there are also military movements as the Connecticut Air National Guard is based at Bradley.

Always carry ID, always stay calm and never argue! The vicinity of the airport – as it is the case with most airports in the US – is frequently patrolled by law enforcement representatives.

Written by Thomas Okaty (local spotter)

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Weather
Airport Information Runways 06/24  15/33  01/19
2.899m (9510ft) 2.087m (6847ft)  1.301m (4268ft)
Terminals Terminal A Terminal B
Used for all flights new terminal planned
Spotting Information Ladder Not required at the listed locations, but also not recommended (for obvious reasons).
Car Absolutely necessary, unless some exercise is desired. In that case, most of the spots can also be reached by bicycle. However, use extra caution because there are no bike paths and drivers in the US are not used to share major roads with cyclists.
Restrooms In the restaurants along Route 75 (east of the airport), and at the gas station on Route 20 (southwest of the airport).
Drinks/Food Several restaurants and fast food places are located along Route 75 east of the airport.
Hotels Several lodging options are located along Route 75 east of the airport.
Season All year, but traffic is slightly heavier during the winter time. It can get very cold during the winter, -10C to -20C is not unusual.
Runway Usage  06/24 Used in both directions. Gets the majority of traffic throughout the year.
15/33 Used for landings and take-offs. Due to the usual wind direction pattern 15 is rarely in use.
01/19 no info

Spot #1 – Route 20 – 6 Arrivals / 24 Departures
WHERE Parking is a bit of an issue at this spot. There are a few options, but all are not great. Either try roadside on Larch Drive (off of Route 20/Rainbow Rd), downside is that this could raise some negative attention from the residents there, or use the parking lot of an abandoned home on the northern side of Route 20 right next to the airport fence. When parked on Larch Drive, then walk along Route 20 eastbound towards the runway approach zone until you get to an open field. Position yourself in decent distance from the road (to avoid distracting traffic) as well as from the private homes. However, be aware of the fact that you are now on state property and that you can easily be seen from the road, hence you potentially attract attention by law enforcement. When parked at the abandoned home (although abandoned this is still a private property), simply stay in or next to your car and just take a few steps towards the runway approach zone every time when a plane is arriving or climbing out.
WHAT All runway 6 arrivals. When 6 and 33 are operative at the same time, then it can be hit or miss as because there is no specific rule for the assignment of each runway. 24 departures are difficult to catch as smaller planes (Embraer, CRJ’s) and not fully loaded mid-size planes (B737, B757) will already have reached quite some altitude.
TIME Mid-afternoon until sunset.
MISC. Restrooms, drinks and snacks are available at the nearby gas station.
FOCAL LENGTH 70-130mm for arrivals, 200mm for departures
Spot #2 – Hemlock/E Granby Road – 6 Arrivals / 24 Departures
WHERE Park your car in the corner of the two roads (on the dirt/gravel area) and stay next to your vehicle while taking your shots. Keep in mind that this is state property and not an official/public parking lot.
WHAT All runway 6 arrivals. When 6 and 33 are operative at the same time, then it can be hit or miss as because there is no specific rule for the assignment of each runway. Smaller planes (Embraer, CRJ’s) and not fully loaded mid-size planes (B737, B757) departing from 24 will already be fairly high.
TIME Sunrise until mid-afternoon. Switch to spot #1 once you get backlit pictures.
MISC. Restrooms, drinks and snacks are available at the gas station near spot #1.
FOCAL LENGTH 70-130mm for arrivals, 200mm for departures
Spot #3 – Ruby Tuesday – 33 Arrivals
WHERE Right on Route 75. Park your car in the restaurant’s parking lot, but keep in mind that this is a private property.
WHAT All runway 33 arrivals. It gets tricky when 33 and 24 are both operative as ATC often splits the volume, meaning traffic from the South could be advised to use 24 and traffic from the North or West might be directed to land on 33.
TIME 10am until sunset.
MISC. Several fast food places, restaurants and gas stations can be found in walking distance along Route 75.
FOCAL LENGTH  752 = 175mm; A320 = 200mm
Spot #4 – Light Lane – 33 Arrivals / 15 Departures
WHERE Park your car in the parking lot of Bradley Bowl, then walk to the spot. Be careful crossing Route 75! This is a 4-lane road and there are no designated pedestrian crossings and no sidewalks. Position yourself on the dirt area behind the crash barrier along the east side of Light Lane.
WHAT Similar to spot #3 you will get all 33 arrivals, just at a different angle. You can also catch 15 departures, although smaller planes will already be quite high.
TIME 10am until sunset.
MISC. Several fast food places and restaurants can be found along Route 75.
FOCAL LENGTH  70-300

Sample pics follow soon!

Spot #5 – 1160 South Street (Route 75) – 24 Arrivals
WHERE This spot is recommended to be used only on weekends as it is on a private business property. On a weekend, you can park your car in their parking lot, but remain close to your car and don’t position yourself too close to the road, so you don’t distract drivers (and that way attract attention by the police).
WHAT All runway 24 arrivals. It gets tricky when 24 and 33 are both operative as ATC often splits the volume, meaning traffic from the South could be advised to use 24 and traffic from the North or West might be directed to land on 33.
TIME Sunrise until mid-afternoon.
MISC. No facilities close by. Take Route 75 southbound towards spot #3, you will find everything there.
FOCAL LENGTH  70-300

Sample pics follow soon!

Spot #6 – Cul-de-Sac Marketing Drive – 24 Arrivals
WHERE Take Route 75 northbound along the eastern side of the airport towards Suffield, then turn right onto Marketing Drive. Park your car roadside anywhere close to the cul-de-sac at the end of Marketing Drive, but not in the cul-de-sac as sometimes trucks use it (especially on weekdays) to turn around. On the weekend, you can use the parking lot of the business located there, but keep in mind that this is private property.
WHAT All runway 24 arrivals. It gets tricky when 24 and 33 are both operative as ATC often splits the volume, meaning traffic from the South could be advised to use 24 and traffic from the North or West might be directed to land on 33.
TIME Sunrise until mid-afternoon. Switch to spot #7 once you get backlit pictures.
MISC. No facilities close by. Take Route 75 southbound towards spot #3, you will find everything there.
FOCAL LENGTH  70-300

Sample pics follow soon!

Spot #7 – Route 75 – 24 Arrivals
WHERE This spot is in the same area as spot #6, hence park your car on Marketing Drive and walk up to the main road (Route 75). When you want to get a little different angle, then cross over to the other side of the road, but be careful while doing so as this is a 4-lane highway. Southbound drivers might struggle to see you as the sun is right in their faces. On the weekend, you can also park your car in the driveway of the business across from the Marketing Drive entrance. Same here, bear in mind that this is a private property. Also, don’t position yourself too close to the road to avoid distracting drivers on Route 75 southbound or northbound (depending on which side you are).
WHAT All runway 24 arrivals. It gets tricky when 24 and 33 are both operative as ATC often splits the volume, meaning traffic from the South could be advised to use 24 and traffic from the North or West might be directed to land on 33.
TIME Mid-afternoon until sunset.
MISC. No facilities close by. Take Route 75 southbound towards spot #3, you will find everything there.
FOCAL LENGTH 70-200mm
Spot #8 – Perimeter Road – 6 Departures
WHERE Although Perimeter Rd is open to the public/through-traffic, it is not recommended to take your car to this spot as there is no designated parking lot and parking is also not permitted all along the road. This road is frequently patrolled by the police. The best way to get there is by bike, however, be prepared to be asked to leave this spot as it is right at the airport fence.
WHAT You can catch runway 6 departures from here. Just keep some distance to the fence and shoot over it, the majority of departing planes will already be in climb.
TIME Mid-afternoon until sunset.
MISC. As you are on a bike, bring everything you need.
FOCAL LENGTH 70-300

Sample pics follow soon!

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