Los Angeles Intl. Airport Spotting Guide

The gateway to California handeld almost 75 Mio. passengers in 2015 and is one of the top ten airports of the world in number of passengers. More than 12.8 mio people living within the Los Angeles Metropolitan Aera and almost every tourist who is going to visit the Western States of the USA will start his journey in Los Angeles. Thats why you will get a wide variety of airlines and many international carriers using heavy equipment at LAX, the official airport code. Many US airlines using Los Angeles as hub or as a focus city, like Alaska Airlines, Southwest, American Airlines just to mention a few. Plane spotting is not very popular in the US, but LAX is one of the more famous places for this hobby. Most time, the wind is coming from the ocean, so the planes arriving from the city, while the departures heading to the ocean. The sun is shining almost any time of the year and the pacific ocean, with his large beaches, is just next to the airport.

Written by Julian Mittnacht, Jan Seba and Lennart Böttcher (last update Feb 2016)

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Weather
Airport Information Runways 06L/24R (north) 06R/24L (north)
2.720 m (8.925 ft) 3.135 (10.285)
07L/25R (south) 07R/25L (south)
3.685 (12.091 ft) 3.382 (11.096)
Terminals Terminal 1 Terminal 2 Terminal 3
Southwest Air Canada, Hawaiian, Intl. carriers not in TBIT JetBlue,Spirit,Virgin Amerika, Allegiant, Frontier
Terminal 4 Terminal 5 Terminal 6
American Airlines Delta Airlines Alaska, American, Delta, Great lakes
Terminal 7 Terminal 8 Tom Bradley Intl. Terminal
United Airlines United Airlines Intl. carriers
Spotting Information Ladder not needed
Car needed for some locations
Restrooms all around the airport in the restaurants or hotel lobbies
Drinks/Food all around the airport
Hotels there are plenty of hotels along the Century Blvd. You can walk from there to spots 2-5 & 7. To get a great deal, use the bidding tool of priceline.com.
The Embassy Suites are within the walking distance to the Imperial Hill.
Season there is no special season but its very hot in the summer and heat haze can be a problem at some positions. The light conditions are perfect from October until March as the sun is always in the south so you don´t have to switch positions.
Runway Usage  06L/24R usually the wind comes from the ocean, so 24R is in use for arrivals, mainly by Intl. carriers, especially from Asia & Europe, as well as airlines located in the north terminals
06R/24L than 24L is used for departures
07R/25L wind comes from the west, the outer runway (25L) is in use for arrivals, mainly by carriers located in the southern terminals.
07L/25R the inner runway 25 R is used for departures

Spot #1 – Imperial Hill – 07/25 movements
WHERE It is not difficult to find because as it the name already says, this spot is located at the ‘Imperial Ave’. Always keep the ‘Sepulveda Blvd’ in mind, because this road connects almost every single spotting location with the airport. When you follow the Blvd from the airport and passed the tunnel, don’t make a right turn into the Imperial Hwy. You have to use the next street to turn right into the E Walnut Ave. Than take the next right into the California St. After two, small blocks you will see the Embassy Suites to your right hand side. Here you make a left turn into the ‘E Imperial Ave’. Now drive for 1 km, up the hill (the airport is to your right) until you see a small park area, with some benches and a big US Flag on your right. Just park your car along the road. There you are!

By Public Transport: Take local transit to get to LAX City Bus Center and take there “Beach Cities Transit bus 109” which runs 7 days a week to Imperial Hill. From LAX terminals, take bus shuttle to parking Lot C which is next to LAX City Bus Center and then take the bus 109 to Imperial Hill. You can also take above bus from Metro Green Line Aviation Station.

WHAT This spot is famous for the rotating plane pictures. You see all movements from 07L/R and 25L/R. You will miss some 25L arrivals, as the planes exit the runway earlier. But all 25R departures will be on your camera chip. If 06L/R is in use, you will not miss a single plane that use the southern runways. Also taxiway Bravo and Charlie will be in your sight.
TIME Great spot for the whole day. Only in the evening you will get backlit pictures.
MISC. Restrooms are pretty close in the Embassy Suites. Don’t hesitate to get in there! Restaurant and supermarket are a little bit more far aways. There are enough benches to relax.
FOCAL LENGTH 200-400 mm


Spot #2 – Proud Bird Restaurant – 25R arrivals
WHERE its pretty close to the airport hotels and is allong the Aviation Blvd. Use the Century Blvd until you can make a right turn into the Aviation Blvd. The street is running parallel to the Sepulveda Blvd. Its on the left side and you won´t miss it as there are many aircrafts displayed around the restaurant. Just park your car on the big parking lot.
We have received a recent report (February 2016) that this spot is currently inaccessible due to reconstruction works of the Proud Bird and the Parking Lot. Supposedly the entire area will be off limits for spotters until the reconstruction is finished in November 2016. Please bear this in mind, when visiting the airport. Alternative location is spot#8!
WHAT Its along the approach path of 25R and you don´t miss a single plane here.
TIME Great spot for the whole day. Only in the evening you get backlit pictures.
MISC. You get everything what you need in and around the restaurant.
FOCAL LENGTH 70-300mm
Spot #3 – Ace Parking/Quick car parking – 24R arrivals
WHERE There are two parking garages along the W98th and corner of Vicksburg Ave. If you stay in one of the plenty hotels at the century blvd use one of these garages as they are much cheaper than to park on the hotel property. Just use the elevator to get on the top level. Free shuttle busses running from the terminals to the parking lots, rental stations and hotels.
WHAT As you are on a higher level than standing on the ground you can make great side shots of aircrafts arriving on 24R. Almost all heavies arrive here, especially those from Europe and Asia.
TIME Great spot for the whole day. Only in the evening you get backlit pictures. It can get pretty hot here on the roof so if, use a lower level.
MISC. Restrooms are inside the hotels and in one of the many fast food restaurants around the area.
FOCAL LENGTH 150-400 mm. Quick Car Parking is a little bit closer than the Ace parking so you need less focal length.

Pictures from the “ACE Parking” Garage

Pictures from the “Quick Parking” Garage

Spot #4 – In-N Out Burger – 24R arrivals
WHERE Another very popular spotting location in L.A.. Just follow the Sepulveda Boulevard northwards for appr. one kilometer and you will see on the left hand side the fast food restaurant and a tiny park area. You can park your car here along the street. You can also walk from the terminals for around 15 minutes, as its pretty close and very easy to find.
WHAT This location is not the best for photography as you have backlit almost the whole day. Furthermore you are almost under the aircrafts and belly shots is what you will get. Its just a nice stop if you get hungry and wanna try a tasteful burger while watching the planes arriving. If you wanna make more sideview shots, go to spot 5.
TIME Its only good in the evening, especially in the summer. Sun is pretty low in the winter!
MISC. restrooms are in the In-N Out Burger.
FOCAL LENGTH 20-150 mm

Spot #5 – CVS Parking Lot – 24R arrivals
WHERE? when you passed the In-N Out Burger, follow the road only for a couple of meters until you can make a left turn into the W 89 Street where the CVS Pharmacy is located. There are parking lots on the roof of the store, so just use the ramp to get ontop. This is your place to be! Stay next to your car because parking is only allowed for customers. You can easily walk to this position from the terminals.
WHAT you are a little bit higher here and more distant to the aircrafts as on spot #4.
TIME its only good in the evening, especially in the summer. Sun is pretty low in the winter!
MISC. restrooms are in the In-N Out Burger. Supermarket just next to you.
FOCAL LENGTH 200-400 mm
Spot #6 – Westchester Parkway – 24L departures/24R arrivals
WHERE There are many ways to get to this place so please use google maps to find your way. You need to get on the Lincoln Blvd. and then turn into the W 94th Street. The street where you can park your car is parrallel to the Westchester Parkway next to some appartement buildings. From here follow the small footpath to get on the Westchester Parkway. Just cross the street and you will be there.
WHAT You get some very amazing sunset, evening shots from 24R arrivang aircrafts, as well as 24L departures with the airport as a background, here. Because of the many lightpoles along the road infront of you its a little bit difficult to find the best moment releasing the shutter.
TIME Its only recommend in the evening, especially in the summer. Sun is already too low in the winter!
MISC. The police patrols the roads around the airport frequently. So the risk of beeing stopped is pretty high. But don´t be afraid. Usually the officers are very friendly and know what you are doing. They just control your ID and then keep you going.
FOCAL LENGTH 200-400 mm
Spot #7 –  Parking Lot C / Bridge – 24R Arrivals
WHERE There are two opportunities where you can stay. By car the best way to get here is use the West Century Blvd. From here there are multiple way to get to the W 96th street on which the entrance to the parking lot is located. It is recommended to enter by car and to pay the fee ($12 by latest information), so that you can spot directly from the car and not have any trouble with authorities and security.
Otherwise you can stay on the bridge connecting W 96th Street with the airport. There runs a free shuttle bus from the terminals to the Parking Lot C and you can even walk from the terminal (approximate 800 meters). There are stairways connecting Sepulveda Blvd/W96th and the bridge.
WHAT This spot is an alternative to Spot #3. It is closer to the runway, so you dont need as much focal length. A disadvantage is, that you might have trouble with some lamp posts. But you should be able to find a good location in the parking lot so that they dont disturb your picture. Otherwise you might need to stamp them for some of the heavies (narrowbodies should never be a problem).
You can also stay on the bridge where you have no disturbing objects in your way and you are even more flexible when it comes to the perspective.
TIME In the winter, this is a great spot for the entire day. In the summer you will get backlit pictures in the evening. It might get very hot on the bridge, especially in the noon, and the only chance to protect yourself is to go down the staircase and stay under the bridge.
MISC. You might be approached by the police at this location, because it is not as well known as the others by the officials. In my case they were fine with me spotting here, because I paid for the parking anyway. At the bridge you cause attention to the authorities!
FOCAL LENGTH 70 – 200 mm (B777 is at 85mm, B738 is at 150mm)


Pictures taken from the bridge:

Spot #8 – W 111th Street – 25L arrivals
WHERE Near the Proud Bird Restaurant, just drive along the Aviation Blvd and turn into the W 111th Street. After 350m (1150ft) you will see a small turning basin for busses on your left. Even if this turning basin is declared to be a towing zone, you can park your car here – I have never seen a bus using it and nevertheless, you can stand in close proximity to your car at this position.
A ladder is not required at this location
WHAT This spot is a good alternative for the closed Proud Bird Restaurant. You get most of the American domestic traffic (United, American, Delta) here and usually, the heavies from Oceania will use runway 25L for landing.
TIME In the winter, this is a great spot for the entire day. In the summer you will get backlit pictures in the evening.
MISC. No restrooms nearby. The chance that you are approached by the authorities or self-appointed “airport-protectors” is very high at this spot. But as long as you stand outside the parking-lot, they will not stop you from taking pictures. Keep in mind: do not enter the parking lot – even if the area near the spot seems to be closed, it still belongs to the airport!
FOCAL LENGTH 90 – 260 mm (737-800 – 170 mm)



+++ Visit the Star Helicopters website if you are interested in doing air to ground photos from LAX +++

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51 thoughts on “Los Angeles Intl. Airport Spotting Guide

  1. BRIAN WILKES

    Finally coming to LAX next year but in the first week of September.
    Just wondering if the heat haze is a big problem taking pics from the Imperial Hill?

    Regards
    Brian

    1. JulianJulian

      Hi Brian, heat haze is only a problem for ground photos from the imperial hill. Take offs are all in the air at the Imperial Hill and there is no heat.

      -Julian

        1. JulianJulian

          Yes midday it’s terrible! Afternoon it’s getting better.
          But keep in mind all planes exit earlier and won’t pass the hill if they arrive on 06

  2. Mark Ollier

    A note for people visiting LAX. This weekend (28th and 29th Jan) spotters have been removed from all spots and told by police that photographs are not allowed to be taken. The police have directed everybody to the Flightpath Museum or The Hill. Even tough we were on a public sidewalk and so were about 10 other spotters I’ve spoken to and we were all told the same thing. I will update over the next few days/weeks to see if this is going to be a long term issue

    1. JulianJulian

      Hi Mark, thanks for this info. I hope this is not a long term issue too and we can spot in LAX again. Please let us know if you know something new.

      -Julian

      1. Bohus

        HI all, I visited LAX in week 13-17FEB and there were no problem . I was on spot 7 – bridge and parking C and also spot 8. Evereything was fine and great. Many thanks for this guide O:)
        Bohus

  3. Mai

    Hi all,
    does anybody know where these pictures were taken at? Looks like from somewhere from high above with a zoom. It’s been taken from the south but I can’t find anything around that area that is so high.

    https://img.planespotters.net/photo/734000/original/n971at-delta-air-lines-boeing-717-2bd_PlanespottersNet_734129.jpg

    https://img.planespotters.net/photo/599000/original/g-xlec-british-airways-airbus-a380-841_PlanespottersNet_599601.jpg

    Thanks and regards,
    Mai

    1. JulianJulian

      Hi,
      these photos were made from a helicopter. Check out the last paragraph in our guide for more infos.

      -Julian

    1. JulianJulian

      In LAX you get soon or later in contact with the police at almost every spotting location. But usually they just check your ID and let you continue your hobby.

      -Julian

      1. Chris

        Hi Joao,

        Was here last year and spent some hours up on the bridge which crosses Sepulveda. Apparently they are not fond of groups being up on the bridge! As I was alone I was not disturbed by the Police even though they passed me many times(there is a Police station next to the bridge!).

        Good luck,

        Chris

        1. Joao Santos

          I was in 2012 at LAX and thought to use this bridge as spotting locacion but did not want to risk it.
          the next time will be there because it seems like a good place for morning arrivals.

          Thanks

          Chris

  4. Howard Grant

    Hi Guys.

    I will be having 3 nights in the Embassy Suites South in March 2017 for spotting/photography before flying up to SFO to join family on a vacation , i will have no transport and plan on spending a couple of days at Imperial hill.

    Question1:…are there any food outlets near this spot so i dont have to go back to the hotel?
    Question2:…what temperatures can i expect last week in march(roughly)?
    Question3:…is there shelter there?
    Hope you can help

    Regards.
    Howard Grant.

    1. JulianJulian

      Hi Howard,

      1. Yes there are is a 7eleven and some fast food restaurants a few minutes from the spot. Just walk along the road westwards.
      2. I refer to the weather statistic you can find on the net. But March is warm but not hot 🙂
      3. Some small trees are at this spot.

      -Julian

      1. Howard Grant

        Hi Julian.
        Thanks for the info….really looking forward to a couple of days here as i have not been to LAX since 1991!
        Regards.
        Howard Grant.

  5. Florida Metal

    Embassy Suites North is a pretty good spotting hotel for 300mm and up lenses if you get a high floor facing north. It has a balcony so you don’t have to shoot through a window. East facing room might get you arrivals on both runways. I had to shoot through a window to get south runway stuff from a hallway at the hotel since my room faces north. I am currently staying at Embassy Suites North during my time in LA. Embassy Suites South used to be a good spotting hotel but the Atlantic FBO built a hangar that blocks the view of the field from the room.

  6. Brian Wilkes

    Any know he walking time/distance from the Embassy Suites LAX South to Imperial Hill?
    Ill be staying at the hotel!

    regards
    Brian

    1. MarlinMarlin

      Hi Brian!

      It’s gonna be a 12mins walk for you, Sir and 0.6 miles to cover from the Embassy Suites Hotel to the Imperial Hill. You simply walk down E Imperial Ave all the way westwards until Clutter’s Park appears on the righ hand side of the street.

      Cheers and have a lovely trip!
      Marlin

  7. Luxornv

    Hello from ORD. I’ll be at LAX in a few hours and I’ll be in LA for about a week. I’m planning some time for spotting and hopefully will be able to meet up with some experienced LAX spotters throughout the day. Disappointing to hear about Proud Bird; I was really looking forward to going there as well.

  8. Koos van der Heijden

    Hi all, just last week returned from LAX and indeed the ProudBird is close, a sign says until November 2016, but the nextdoor neighbour told me that all work had stopped recently and nothing was happening, so lets keep our fingers crossed it will open again.
    I can upload photos prving this but do not know how?
    Next to the proudbrid is the Campersite, DO NOT enter this, they (security) do not like this and very agressieve tell you to leave, you can stand at their entrance at both sides without any problem or at a small parking area a bit further without any problems.

    Maybe an alternative for taking landing pictures at 24R instead of the W96ST Skyway, you can stand in Jenny Ave, where the AVIS parkinglot is just after the employe busstop, only one lamp pole to deal with and something you wacht out for the busses in your view, I never had a problem. Police passed me many times but never stopped, compaired to the Skyway were I was question 8 times in one day.

  9. Tomislav Muic

    Hi, thanks for the guide, but I have slight correction on spot #3.
    I was walking towards ACE parking and found out a somewhat better parking garage at corner of Vicksburg avenue.
    No hassle there for two hours of morning spotting, and since it is a lot closer to airport you can take photos of 24R taxi to departure.
    (200mm was enough for heavies)

    1. JulianJulian

      Hi Tomislav,

      thanks for the information. This garage didn´t exists during my visit some years ago but I will update the guide.

      Regards
      Julian

  10. Bryan Daniels-Hepnar

    Hello all – I am planning to visit Point 1 – Imperial Hill on 15th April; en-route from Fort Lauderdale FL to Brisbane, Australia.
    I will stay at the Embassy Suites south – as suggested, because it is walking distance to the mound.

    A quick question – will my 100-300mm be sufficient from this point?

    Many thanks,

    Bryan.

    P.S. dont forget to visit Fort Lauderdale as it has some great spotting areas and spotter friendly too!!

    1. JulianJulian

      Hi Bryan, you need more than 300mm for the regional jets taking off or smaller jets on the taxiway. Heavies are no problem.
      We will update the guide soon with this info.

      -Julian

  11. Marcus

    Hi,

    When I was spotting at position 8 I was approached by police. They sent me away as parking and loitering is forbidden there. They said it would be not their decision but they were called to move me away. My friends were there the day before and had no issues for several hours.

    Seems it’s not clear if this spot is off limits or not. Maybe it’s worth a try just to be there for specific aircrafts landing on the southern runway and to not to stay too long…

  12. Pavel

    Hi, I am at LAX 9-14th March for the first time. I am from the Czech Republic. Will any other spotters be there ? 🙂

    1. meeko

      …i will be there after 12pm(probably not the best time for lighting)at spot 1 in imperial hill location

  13. Marcus

    Hi,

    I will be in LAX soon. As I found the Proud Bird restaurant is currently closed for renovation, is it still possible to access the parking or the theme park for spotting? If not is there any alternative position for 25R approaches?

    Thanks
    Marcus

    1. MarlinMarlin

      Hi Marcus,

      Unfortunately we do not have any info whether it is possible to take photos from the parking or theme park. It is likely but we cannot guarantee.
      We will let you know as soon as we have received info about that.
      We also don’t know about alternatives unfortunately but we try to find that out for you. Please also check our facebook page for updates if possible.

      Thanks
      Marlin

    2. Pavel Herega

      Hi, is it possible to take some pictures at N Douglas St ?? Landing on 25L.
      I will be at LAX in March for the first time. Thanks.
      Pavel

      1. JulianJulian

        Hi, I don´t think so as the I105 blocks the sight. We don´t know an alternative for the Proud Bird Restaurant yet but I would try something next to it.

        Regards
        Julian

  14. Nate

    Hi and thanks for posting!! Quick question, have you ever tried on top of the One Parking Spot garage right be In n Out Burger?

  15. Roy Bazylewicz

    Here are directions to Imperial Hill via bus

    Take local transit to LAX City Bus Center then take Beach Cities Transit bus 109 which runs 7 days a week to Imperial Hill. From within LAX take shuttle to Lot C which is next to LAX City Bus Center and take the above bus to Imperial Hill. You can also get above bus from Metro Green Line Aviation Station.

  16. Peter Apsey

    Hi All,

    I’m staying at the Embassy Suites south in January, I wont have a car,

    I believe its possible to walk to Spot 1, is that true,

    Are any of the other points reachable by foot or public transport??

    many thanks Guys

    1. JulianJulian

      Hi Peter,

      yes its possible and pretty easy to walk to the Imperial Hill from the hotel. You may use the shuttle bus of the hotel to the aiport and walk from there to spots 3,4,5 & 7. Public transport is possible but not that easy.

      Regards
      Julian

      1. Peter Apsey

        Hey Julian,

        Thanks for getting back to me,

        Which hotel would you recommend staying at?

        I was thinking of changing and staying in the airport complex so I can go to different areas opposed to being on the south of the airfield

        Regards

        Pete

        1. JulianJulian

          Hi Peter,

          we mentioned it in the guide. We can´t recommend a special hotel.

          there are plenty of hotels along the Century Blvd. You can walk from there to spots 2-5. To get a great deal, use the bidding tool of priceline.com.
          The Embassy Suites are within the walking distance to the Imperial Hill.

          Regards
          Julian

          1. Peter Apsey

            Hey Julian,

            Just back from LAX,

            Amazing time,

            would highly recommend staying at Embassy Suites South as you can literally walk to the museum and Imperial Hill

            Cheers

            Pete

  17. Marcel Moser

    Hello Fellow Plane Spotters!

    I will be going to spend some 8 hours laying over from the Pacific to Europe (between 1100 and 1900 LT). I read this amazing (and very handy) article and now I have a few questions:

    Q1:It is possible to walk fromTBIA to spot #4 (In-N-Out Burger)? If so, how to get there?
    Q2: If walking is not possible, how to proceed by public transportation
    Q3: Is there an easy way to reach the Imperial hill also by public transportation?

    Many many thanks in advance for your attention on my questions.

    I wish you all a great time!

    Marcel

    1. JulianJulian

      Hi Marcel, there is a sidewalk to get to the In-N out burger so no public transport is needed. It’s pretty easy to find. Get to the ground level and head to the hotels and when you reached the HWY 1. Turn left and you have just have to walk to the approach path. You will see the burger signs in the distance.
      Google maps and street view is the tool you need to get prepared.
      The imperial hill can be reached by public transport but it’s difficult and can take up to an hour. There is a bus stop below the hill.

      Have a nice trip
      Julian

  18. Chris

    Hi fellow aircraft enthusiasts,

    I will be leaving for LAX in about three weeks time, an airport I am well acquainted with. Even though I have visited LAX numerous times, and are well informed on all locations, there is one question I still have. Is it possible to photograph from the W96st fly over(bridge that crosses Sepulveda Blvd and looks over the approach of 24L and 24R), or is this frowned upon by the authorities?

    Regards,

    Chris

    1. JulianJulian

      Hi Chris,

      in general I would say yes, its possible to take pictures from there. But this is a busy road and you will be spotted soon or later by the police and ask you to leave as the sidewalk is very small. The cops are very present along the airports perimeter. I was checked too but at an other location. Usually they are friendly and know what we are doing here. Alternatives are Spot 3 & 7 in our guide which are very close to your spot.

      Kind regards
      Julian

    2. Edsard

      It is possible I have been there a couple of years ago and did not get into any trouble.
      The sidewalk is indeed small and it is a quite busy road.
      The lightpoles along side the road may be a problem.
      I know it is to late for you but maybe other users of this great site can use this informatoin.

      Greetings,

      Edsard

      1. Jon Moran

        Hi all, just a query looking at the above map, is is possible to shoot from the beach front? or is there no point with the prevailing wind being from the ocean?
        Will be in Redondo Beach for a few days next month, will try to pop up to Imperial Hill for an hour or two, any tips on busy period for heavies? late morning or afternoon?

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