Las Vegas McCarran Airport Spotting Guide

Las Vegas, or Sin City, is with almost 45,4 Mio. passengers in 2015 one of the busiest airports in the USA and a tourist mecca for his residents. Southwest Airlines is the biggest carrier and responsible for most traffic, followed by Allegiant Air with a respectable amount of flights. The chance of getting a WN’s special paint scheme is pretty high. Also the business jets movements are enormous and the Las Vegas Sands cooperation is based in LAS with their fleet of A345, 767 and 747SP. EG&G also called Janet has its operational base in Vegas even with an own terminal on the east side of the field. Flights are operated on Boeing 736, King Air and Beech 1900 to the Nevada National Security Site (‘Aera 51). International schedule traffic is pretty low with a few intercontinental operators like Korean Air, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Norwegian, Edelweiss or Condor. From Canada Westjet, Sunwing and Air Canada Rouge coming to LAS and from Mexico Interjet, Aeromexico and Volaris. The hotels of the Las Vegas strip offering a nice background on photos taken at some spots. Las Vegas is surrounded by mountains and crosswinds on the runway are not unusual.

Written by Julian Mittnacht, Randall Johnson, Kevin Perry and John (last update Jun 2017)

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Weather
Airport Information Runways 01L/19R 01R/19L
2.739 m (8.985 ft) 2.979 m (9.775 ft)
07L/25R 07R/25L
4.423 m (14.510 ft) 3.208 m (10.526 ft)
Terminals Terminal 1 Terminal 3
Southwest, Allegiant, Spirit, Delta, US Airways mainly intl. carriers and some national
Spotting Information Ladder needed at spots 2 & 7
Car recommend
Restrooms all around the airport
Drinks/Food many hotels within the airport perimeter
Season try to avoid the summer month as you will get a lot of heat distortion and very high temperatures
Runway Usage  01L/19R used in both directions for arrivals and departures (19R departures only by General Aviaton and E&G)
01R/19L used in both directions for arrivals and departures
07L/25R usually this inner runway is used for departures (07 arrivals only during very hot summer month)
07R/25L usually this outer runway is used for landings (no departures from 07R – 07 arrivals only during very hot summer month

Spot #1 – Cigar Store – 25L/R arrivals&departures
WHERE If you start at the famous Las Vegas Blvd, drive out of the city until you pass the threshold of RWY01 on the left. After that make a left turn into the E Sunset Rd and follow the road for almost 4 km parallel to the runway until you see the threshold of 25L on your left. Make a right turn into the S Bruce St. At the corner is a Cigar Store located which is your spot. Park your car here.
WHAT You look over the Sunset Rd and have a view on the thresholds of RWY25. Planes coming from the right using 25L, 25R is normally used for departures only. If you wanna make a shot over the fence, climb up the small, green box on the corner of the parking area. No ladder needed then! When RWY25L is in use for the departures as well, what is not very common, you can make some nice shots when the plane is turning in.
TIME During winter this is a perfect spot for the whole day. In the summer the sun turns around in the late afternoon. Ground movements are tricky as there is a lot of heat haze, especially for RWY25R.
MISC. There is a 7Eleven and a gas station when you follow the Sunset Rd for 200 meters eastwards (tagged on the map)
FOCAL LENGTH 50-200 mm

Spot #2 – Sunset Rd – 25L/R arrivals&departures
WHERE This is the one and only official spotting location in Las Vegas. Its a long parking area, 300-400 meters before spot #1, across the Sunset Rd. You can park your car here for free. The first thing you will face is the pretty high fence! If you don’t have a huge ladder, use the roof of your SUV which should be not the smallest. Shouting through the mesh is possible but limited.
WHAT The spot is pretty amazing as you are very close to RWY25L. Some days the crosswinds in Vegas are pretty heavy and bumpy touchdowns are not unusual. This is the place to be as you are exactly across the touchdown zone! Its also the best location if 07L is used for departures.
TIME During winter this is a perfect spot for the whole day. In the summer the sun turns around in the late afternoon. There can be heat distortion in your picture if you try to shot for 25R.
MISC. As on spot #1 explained, visit the 7 Eleven store
FOCAL LENGTH 50-200 mm

Spot #3 – Konami Building – 25L/R departures
WHERE This spot is almost at the threshold of RWY 07 at the Sunset Rd, corner S Bermuda Rd. There is a small wall where you can climb up and reach a higher level to avoid the fence. Please park your car at the Konami building only during weekends!! You will get trouble with their security during weekdays.
WHAT Good spot for 25R departures as you have less heat haze in your pictures as on spot #2. The fence shouldn’t be a problem as the planes already rotating before your photo position and are not too high.
TIME During winter this is a perfect spot for the whole day. In the summer the sun turns around in the late afternoon.
MISC. Visit the Town Square for all the amenities (tagged on the map)
FOCAL LENGTH 100-300 mm

Spot #4 – Panevino – 07L/R & 01L/R arrivals, 19L/R departures
WHERE To reach this location follow the Sunset Rd westwards until you see the Panevino Restaurant on the left. Turn left into the Gilespie St and park your car at the Park&Ride lot. Walk the few meters back to the Sunset Rd and find a place next to the Panevino sign.
WHAT Great place for the 19L/R departures. 19R is only used by EG&G aircrafts and the General Aviation traffic. When the aircrafts are heavy you have a nice background with some hotels of the Las Vegas Blvd. For 01 arrivals pass the Panevino by following the Sunset Blv. westwards. So you get closer to the arriving aircrafts. 07 arrivals are not usual and only appears during very hot summer days.
TIME Best in in the morning hours until afternoon (depends on the time of the year)
MISC. Visit the Town Square for all the amenities (tagged on the map)
FOCAL LENGTH 50-400 mm
Spot #5 – Crash Gate – 01L/R arrivals, 19L/R departures, taxiway Hotel
WHERE This spot is located at a crash gate which is next to the Las Vegas Blvd. Park your car at the Executive Terminal and walk a few meters southwards along the Blvd. to the gate.
WHAT You are almost at the threshold of 01 and get all arrivals. When business jets arrive on 25 they will use the taxiway Hotel to the GAT in front of this spot.
TIME Only okay in the late afternoon in the summer month. No light in the winter on this location!
MISC. Visit the Town Square for all the amenities (tagged on the map)
Spot #6 – Parking T1 – 01L/R departures, T1 apron
WHERE The top of the employee parking garage of Terminal 1 is one of the most famous spots in Las Vegas. Follow the green signs to the T1 long term parking garage and drive to the roof top. This is where you park your car. You can’t park next to the spot as its for employees only! Than you have to walk a few meters, over a bridge, to the employee parking garage until you reach the Terminal. Stay where I’ve tagged the position on the map. You can also use the elevators from the T1 departure hall to the top of the parking garage.
WHAT This spot is famous for its background on the pictures, with the Las Vegas Strip hotels on it. The planes are pretty far away and rotating in front of the hotels. Ground shots are difficult as there is a lot of heat haze.
TIME Good from morning until afternoon (depends on the time of the year)
MISC. Use the elevator to the Terminal for all the facilities you need. The parking lots have a sun protection so you will be standing in the shadow.
FOCAL LENGTH 400-500 mm
Spot #7 – Cargo Area – 25L/R arrivals&departures
WHERE This spot is located next to the cargo ramps of FedEx and UPS at the east of Terminal 3 and next to a WalMart. Visit this location only during the weekend or holidays as this is private property and the companies are not amused about unrequested visitors.
WHAT Your are almost on the opposite site of spot#1 and pretty close to taxiway Bravo & Charlie as well as the threshold of 25R. For ground pictures a ladder is required to overlook the perimeter fence. 25L arrivals are no problem from this spot!
TIME Best in late afternoon and early morning in the summer.
MISC. A Walmart with all the necessary facilities is just next to you.
Spot #8 – Economy Parking – 19L arrivals
WHERE To reach this spot, just follow the signs on the Paradise Road to the Terminal 1 Economy Parking Lot, which is located next to the old international terminal.
WHAT Perfect place for the 19L arrivals. You have a great angle here and with the hotels behind, you get a unique background on your pics. 19R are possible too but due to the distance there can be too much heat distortion.
TIME Best time in the morning until noon.
MISC. Maximum fee for 24h is 10 USD.
FOCAL LENGTH 300 mm for the A319 on 19L,  400 mm for 19R BizJets
Spot #9 – MGM Self Parking Garage – 19R arrivals
WHERE Get to the MGM Grand Hotel and follow signs to the self parking garage. You don’t have to park as you have to pay for it and you may find a better parking which is free of charge next to it. For the spot just climb up the stairs located at the corner Tropicana Ave/Koval Ln to the top level.
WHAT The location is only okay for the 19R arrivals and is recommend in the winter only. There is just too much heat in the summer. 19L is maybe a little bit far but you can try it. Keep in mind 19R is only in use for GA and Janet aircrafts!
TIME In the winter month from afternoon till sunset.
MISC. Everything you need within the hotel.
FOCAL LENGTH For the biz jets you need at least 400-500mm. (samples were taken with a smaller lense!)
Spot #9 – S Eastern Ave – 25R lineup
WHERE This location is at the S Eastern Ave corner Chandler Ave on the sidewalk next to the perimeter fence. Easily reachable from the Sunset Rd. Park your car at the ‘park 2000’ where you can find some shops. You need to shot through the mesh. Ladder may helpful but its attracts too much attention.
WHAT Interesting spot with a nice background of the hotels if the aircrafts turn in for the 25R departures.
TIME Best in the morning hours till noon. Depends on the angle. Heat may occur towards midday.
MISC. Everything you need is behind you. Hotels are also pretty close.
FOCAL LENGTH 170mm for a 737

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16 thoughts on “Las Vegas McCarran Airport Spotting Guide

  1. Nils

    Hello Julian, Thanks for this great guide – one additional question: is there any spot at LAS that is good for night spotting (i.e. long-time exposures)?

  2. Matt

    Hi Julian! I hope all is well! I am visiting Las Vegas next week and I’m going spotting. I saw Spot #1 and immediately thought “I’m doing that one!” One concern that I have: I’m checking the winds and it looks like they’ll land on the 7’s. Would I still be able to see something from there?

    1. JulianJulian Post author

      Hi Matt,

      Personally I never trust forecasts but you should be prepared even in the unusual case 7 is the active direction.
      So try spot #4 instead of #1. Latter is useless for take offs as aircrafts are already too high at this position.

      Julian

    1. JulianJulian Post author

      Keep in mind Spot #4 is totally different from spot #2 so it depends on which ruwnay is active.
      Spot #2 is not the best in the summer due to the heat on the ground.

      -Julian

    1. JulianJulian Post author

      There is no real answer for your questions because its depends on what you prefer and which runway is active! If you just wanna watch the planes go to the official spotting location at the Sunset Rd., Spot 2.

      -Julian

  3. Joe W

    Visiting Vegas 27-30 April, I need advise on best place to park my rental car for spotting. Are any of the airport top parking garages any good? open to all suggestions. I also use kik, willjoe62

    1. JulianJulian Post author

      Please read our guide and you will notice that there is no need to park at the airport for plane spotting.

  4. nkawtg

    It looks like G-VIIO, the British Airways 777 that suffered an uncontained engine failure and fire is under repair at this time.
    They’ve removed panels, the vertical stab, and they are building a temporary hangar over the airplane.

  5. Jens Edelmann

    Plane spotting at our beloved location (Pos. 2 in this report) at Las Vegas McCarran Airport has become very difficult, since airport authorities mounted an additional roll of barbed wire on top of the perimeter fence. This roll did not exist when we visited the location last time in October 2013. The location photograph in this report doesn`t show the new situation. Now it might no longer be possible to shot over the fence by standing on one of the garbage cans, as many spotters did in the past. Usually the roll of wire is visible in the pictures. To avoid this you either need a truck with high ground clearance (SUV`s just like Jeep Cherokee, Ford Escape etc. do not fit this purpose!) or you have to shoot through the meshes of the fence. Alternatively shots of approaching aircraft can easily be taken at the corner E Sunset Road / S Eastern Ave (Pos. 1 in this report – parking is very easy here!). Chandler Ave near Walmart Supercenter is also nice for shooting short finals.

    1. JulianJulian Post author

      Hi Jens, very sad to hear about the additional wire on the top of the fence. Its clearly visible at google street view. Luckily there are plenty of alternatives for arrival shots.

      Thanks for this hint!
      Julian

  6. Kevin

    Hi guys, also the Sunset park is a good adress to spot when 25 is in use. You can park your car for free and pick a nice location inside the park. Restrooms also aviable and McDonalds just across the street.
    Just beware of frisbees 🙂

    Kevin

    1. JulianJulian Post author

      Hi Kevin,

      thanks for your inforamtion. But personally I think the angle at spot 1 is slightly better as at the sunset park. But your spot is surely more comfortable 🙂

      Regards
      Julian

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