JFK – probably the world’s most popular IATA-airport-code. It belongs to New York John F. Kennedy Airport, the largest and busiest in the NY metropolitan area, along the East Coast aaand in the entire United States. An airport, handling more than 53 million passengers every year – and counting.
A mega hub for airlines, passengers and freight grown up from a small regional airport to one of the world’s busiest and popular theatre of operations for tourism, business, economy and freight of the entire aviation world.
The airport is one of the busiest global hubs on the planet is aiming to stay there and American Airlines, Delta Airlines and JetBlue running a hub at JFK. To do so, JFK is expanding further to make more passengers travel through than ever before. An airport becoming more and more important as a gateway to the ‘City That Never Sleeps’ and many other destinations on the globe.
Written by Marlin Lehmann and Daniel Curtis (Last Update September 2016)
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|3,460m (12,079ft)||3,048m (9,999ft)|
|2,560m (8,400ft)||4,442m (14,511ft)|
|Terminals at JFK||General Info||JFK Airport has got 6 Terminals. Terminal numbers 3 and 6 are not existing. Terminal 3 was demolished in 2014 and is now used for aircraft parking of Delta Air Lines jets. Terminal 6 closed 2006, also making space for aircraft parking of JetBlue planes and the expansion of Terminal 5.
Check airlines and their terminals at panynj.
|Terminal 1||Mainly used by European and Asian airlines. Along with Terminal 4, the only terminals capable for A380 flights, therefore hosting Lufthansa, Air France and Korean Air at this terminal complex.|
|Terminal 2||Terminal 2 is used by Delta Air Lines only. From Terminal 2, Delta-flights depart for destinations within the US only. International Delta-departures are operated from Terminal 4 as well as these selected domestic routes: San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. This is due to the closure of T3, forcing Delta to move over some flights into T4.|
|Terminal 4||Mainly used by Delta Air Lines and international flights, like Terminal 1 A380 capable, handling A380-flights by Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Etihad Airways (begins December 1st). T4A is used by Asian and European airliners only, whilst T4B is home for Delta flights and a number of Asian/European flights as well. Skyteam, Star Alliance and non-alliance airlines are sharing this terminal.|
|Terminal 5||Owned by JetBlue, used by JetBlue, Hawaiian Airlines and Aer Lingus – This terminal mainly handles American domestic flights (except AerLingus which parks at T5 due to the US Border Preclearance already performed in Ireland) and Caribbean flights which sometimes are under special surveillance.
All flights depart from this terminal but there is a special handling of flight arrivals. Between 5am and 10pm, all international flights park and disembark at Terminal 5. Between 10pm and 5am, all international flight arrivals park and disembark at Terminal 4 (resp. so-called T5i, a special section in T4).
|Terminal 7||Fully owned by British Airways being the first and single Terminal on US-soil which is not owned by a US-carrier. Selected oneworld partners also board here including Iberia, Qantas and Cathay Pacific. Also some Star Alliance partners as ANA and Air Canada and non-alliance partners Icelandair, Ukraine International and Aerolíneas Argentinas operate flights from here.|
|Terminal 8||Owned by American Airlines.
Some oneworld partners also use this terminal, including airberlin, LAN Chile, Finnair, Qatar Airways, TAM and Royal Jordanian Airlines.
|Spotting Information||Ladder||Not needed at the spots below|
|Car||Advisable, however all spots can be reached by local public transport.|
|Restrooms||In every publicly accessable building like restaurants or hotels and inside of the terminal building.|
|Drinks/Food||There are aplenty of restaurants, shops and food courts nearby the airport, offering supply of food and drinks. Check the particular MISC box at each spot for detailed info.|
|Hotels||There are lots of hotels close to the airport as well as in in the further airport’s area and neighbouring towns. Some of them do offer a view onto the approaching aircraft, for further info just leave a comment unterneath this post and we’re happy to give you info about that.|
|Season||The traffic at New York JFK does not show any significant changes during the year except a slight increase of passenger and traffic volume in summer months. Winters in New York City can be tremendously cold and icy.|
|+++ SECURITY INFORMATION +++
Spotting in the United States is not always tolerated. There have been several reports from fellow spotters that police checks were performed. Especially in the NY area, police is ubiquitous. Spotting at some places is not tolerated.Please be also aware of following facts: The police is quite harsh of endangering the streets safety. If you are standing beside a street and you are visible to drivers, police may ask you to leave as you may distract drivers from keeping their attention onto the road traffic. Some police officers may react rude to our hobby as they suspect terrorism by photography of airplanes, especially in the NY area. Always stay polite and stay in car when a police officer stops for a check. Do not leave your car unless you are told to do so! The spots underneath are believed to be safe but check the MISC box for further info. Spotterguide.net is not liable for any inconvenience and misbehaviour towards the police of fellow spotters.
|Runway Usage||General Info||The runway usage at JFK is fully dependent from the wind. There are some procedures which apply as follows. However, JFK is a busy airport with thousands of different approach pathes, so the landing runway is sometimes subject to the ATC and traffic density, causing some airplanes to reroute last minute and land against a specific landing procedure which is mostly valid for this day. But you can still generalize a few facts:|
|04L||In case of 04-runway operations, this runway is mainly used for departures. However, it can still occur that airplanes land on this runway as well upon air traffic control’s command. Take-offs and landings can happen simultaneously during 04-operations.|
|04R||In case of 04-runway operations, this runway is mainly used for arrivals. However, it can still occur that airplanes depart on this runway as well upon air traffic control’s command but this is very unlikely in this operation schedule. Take-offs and landings can happen simultaneously during 04-operations.|
|22L||Runway 22L is mainly used for arrivals. Airplanes, approaching JFK from the north and east usually use this runway. Widebody airliner from Europe and Asia mostly use this runway. But: It is highly likely that airplanes coming from Europe of from the north are being directed to overfly JFK once to enqueue for a 13L landing. This procedure especially applies during peak-times or high traffic volume at take-off runways. Take-offs and landings can happen simultaneously during 22-operations.|
|22R||In case of 22-runway operations, this runway is mostly used for departures. However, it can still occur that airplanes land on this runway as well upon air traffic control’s command. Take-offs and landings can happen simultaneously during 22-operations.|
|13L||Runway 13L is used for arrivals only. Airplanes, approaching JFK from the south and west usually use this runway. This approach is called the Canarsie approach. Airplanes are performing and extremely tight turn before establishing their alignment onto 13L. Flight coming from the north are usually being directed into 22L. But: It is highly likely that airplanes coming from Europe of from the north are being directed to overfly JFK once to enqueue for a 13L landing. This procedure especially applies during peak-times or high traffic volume at take-off runways. There are no A380-landings possible through this runway. Freight planes usually use this runway.|
|13R||When Canarsie-approaches come into operation, 13R is used as a departure runway only. All flights take-off there, sometimes causing queues and delays. 13R is also operated during 22-landings.|
|31L||Runway 31L is usually used as a departure runway only*. If a single 31-runway scheme schedule is into operation, all flights take-off here, sometimes causing queues and delays. The airplanes mostly bank sharply after take-off. 31L is sometimes used during 22L landings, also.
*A380 land here during Easterlies, as it is not possible to perform an A380-landing on 31R. During peak time and less departures, some airplanes are landing via this runway also, but this is not a rule.
|31R||Runway 31R is currently used for arrivals only. Please note that A380 airplanes cannot land via this runway. They use 31L in case of Easterlies.|
|Spot #1 – Next to the Taxi Holding Area at Cargo Plaza|
|WHERE||There is a Taxi Holding Area for all NY Taxis in JFK’s Cargo City. Its location is difficult of explanation so please check the map above for its exact location. When you use Nassau Expy, use exit 2S, and follow signs ‘JFK Expressway and Kennedy Airport’. Once you have merged with JFK Expy leave it one the first exit again (0.1 miles after merging) so hang right when you enter JFK Expy. Once you have exited JFK Expy, turn left onto 148th St.
After 340 feet, turn right into Center Cargo Rd and then right again at the end of the street. You can already see the parking space next to the Taxi Holding Area to your right. You can park immediately on site.
|WHAT||Landing aircraft into 13L only. When you move forward to the northern tip of the parking lot, you can see aircraft banking sharply.|
|TIME||The light is lovely from mid-day/afternoon until sunset.|
|MISC.||Parking is allowed here but make sure that you keep a low profile and check the red warning box above. There is a meadow next to the parking lot but we advise you not to enter it as there is a radar box of the FAA on it. Warning signs warn you to enter this fenced area with the box telling you that unautorized access will may be punished by.
Furthermore, police may react rude as you could distract the drivers attention.
|FOCAL LENGTH||Photography with a 70-300mm lens is absolutely enough here. Option 1: Boeing 747 Qantas: 35 mm; Boeing 737-900ER Delta: 70mm; China Airlines Boeing 777: 35mm
Option 2: Airbus A320: 85mm; Boeing 737-800: 85mm; Boeing 757-200: 80mm
|Spot #2 – AVIS Car Rental|
|WHERE||Spot 2 is located at or near (choose what you like better) the AVIS Car Rental which is located at Federal Circle near JFK’s Terminal 8. When you disembark at Federal Circle just follow signs for Car Rentals and AVIS and place yourself somewhere at the AVIS car park.
We advise you to travel here by AirTrain or bus, as parking nearby the AVIS property is rather difficult. You might be lucky and get one.If you don’t want to travel by PT, you can also spot nearby the AVIS property and park you vehicle a few yards away. Spotting in this area should be the same, furthermore not all aircraft bank the same way so you’ll find suitable positions anywhere around.
|WHAT||Arriving aircraft into runway 13L only.|
|TIME||Photography of airplanes with lovelvy light is possible from early afternoon until the sun sets.|
|MISC.||You can also travel here by public transport. If travelling from NY City, take the subways to a JFK AirTrain station (either Jamaica or Howard Beach/Lefferts Blvd) and disembark the train at Federal Circle (Car Rentals). Travelling from Lefferts Blvd and onwards in direction the airport is free of charge. If you travel from stations beyond Lefferts Blvd direction Howard Beach or Jamaica, a $5 charge applies. Spotting from AVIS is the closest from the station when you go there by PT.
It is safe to spot here as long as you behave. You can take cover from the roofage of AVIS in case of rain. There is nothing nearby. If you want to buy food or drinks, take the free AirTrain to one of the terminals where aplenty of shops and restaurants are available. Terminal 8 offers a very small shop only. Please note that the AirTrain stops at every terminal so it will take you at least 10mins to get back to Federal Circle when you embark at T1 e.g.
|FOCAL LENGTH||70-300mm is absolutely enough. Boeing 777-300ER 110mm; Airbus A320: 170mm; Embraer 170: 200mm|
|Spot #3 – Brookville Park|
|WHERE||Brookville Park is located in South Queens, being one of the largest parks in the area. There are aplenty of opportunities to take photos from Brookville Park.
You can also travel here by public transport.
|WHAT||Arriving airplanes into runway 22L only.|
|TIME||Spotting from here is advisable from the early afternoon until the sun sets. This refers to summer months.|
|MISC.||There is a bench right at this position were you can make yourself comfortable. You can also walk down the park for different angles. There also lots of activities you can do here ranging from soccer to basketball, jogging or tennis. There are shops nearby the park and possibly some smaller stands offering Hot Dogs or somewhat right in the park.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||A 70-300mm lens is totally appropriated for this spot. Boeing 787: 95mm; Boeing 737-800: 145mm; A380: 70mm; Boeing 777 from the front: 100mm; Boeing 757: 110mm|
|Spot #4 – 230 Pl/149 Ave|
|WHERE||There is a lovely spot for arriving aircraft aiming for 22L in at 230 Pl / 149 Ave. Check the map or Google Maps to get the directions to travel. The spot is located in Brooksville, South Queens next to a school. You can also travel here by public transport|
|WHAT||Arrivals into runway 22L and 22R. When runway 04R is open to departures, which won’t happen until end of September, heavy aircraft can probably also be shot from here.|
|TIME||Spotting from here is advisable from the afternoon to sunset for 22L and in the morning for 22R.|
|MISC.||As you move around in a public area, behave and keep your lens fixed to airplanes only. There is nothing nearby. You should bring along everything what you may need for the time being there. Some smaller shops are nearby some few blocks away. You should absolutely be ok to park you vehicle (if you have one) to the side of the street.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||22L-arriving airplanes can be shot with a 70-400mm-lens: Boeing 747-8: 100mm; Boeing 757: 140mm; Airbus A340-600: 95mm; Boeing 787 Dreamliner: 110mm; Air France Boeing 777-200: 280mmm|
|Spot#5 – Rockaway Blvd – 22L Arrivals and 4L Departures|
|WHERE||This spot is the sidewalk along Rockaway Blvd. Park at the Holiday Inn mentioned in Spot 4, turn left, and walk along the road on the sidewalk. The distance you walk is determined by how close you want to be and whether you’re shooting arrivals or departures. It’s about 2/3 of a mile to 22L, and about 1 mile to 4L.|
|WHAT||Arrivals on 22L and 4L departures are visible from the road. The streetlights along the road can get in the way of 22L arrivals. You can take anything from side on shots to head on shots to belly shots. The landing lights are also easily accessible along the road.|
|TIME||Good all day if you place yourself on the correct sides of the plane (the afternoon yields a further walk).|
|MISC.||This spot is not very glamorous. Rockaway Blvd is a VERY busy road, and there is a lot of trash and overgrown bushes along the sidewalk. If it has been raining a lot recently, parts of the sidewalk get flooded and you have to wait for the traffic lights to change so you can run out into the street to avoid the puddles (or just get your shoes wet).|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Focal length depends on how far away you stand – anything from 25mm to 300mm.|
|Spot#6 – North Woodmere Park – 22L and 31R arrivalss|
|WHERE||This is a large public park. Get off the Belt Parkway at exit 24A and turn right on Francis Lewis Blvd. Follow the road (it turns into Rosedale Ave) until you reach Hungry Harbor Road, and make a right. The park is located right before a sharp bend in the road. There’s a big sign at the entrance, so it’s hard to miss. Entrance into to park is $10 if you don’t live in Nassau Country between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and free the rest of the year. Find a parking spot in the shade. For 31R arrivals, stand near the bathrooms near the parking lot. For 22L arrivals, Turn right at the 31R bathrooms and walk all the way to the end. There will be an old building with a grassy area behind it.|
|WHAT||A nice spot for 31R arrivals, although a bit far away (see Swiss A330). This is the best spot for 22L arrivals, with the only problem being heat haze during the hot months.|
|TIME||31R arrivals only good in the summer ~10am, and 22L arrivals are good from sunrise until about 1:30pm|
|MISC.||Heat haze is the biggest issue at this spot. Some joggers will be curious of what you are doing, so just be friendly. This spot gets very buggy in the spring and summer.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||A 400mm lens will suffice for 31R arrivals. No more than 250mm for 22L|
|Spot#7 – Holiday Inn – 31R arrivals|
|WHERE||This spot is across the road from a Holiday Inn, off the same road as Panera Bread. On Rockaway Blvd, there is a major intersection, and the Holiday Inn is on the right heading south or on the left heading north. Park across the street from the hotel near the fence.|
|WHAT||All 31R arrivals are visible from here. When there are westerly winds, the occasional plane will land on 31L – these planes are visible, but it’s very far away and tough to get a good shot. You cannot hear or see the planes coming, and appear very quickly. There are power lines and a tree that potentially get in the way. Planes move left to right.|
|TIME||Good from sunrise until ~10:00am in the summer.|
|MISC.||There is not much here, so bring what you need. There is a restaurant further down the road on the water. Stay near your car and there shouldn’t be any problems with security.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||175mm for a B752, 130mm for an A345, 235mm for an E190|
|Spot#8 – Panera Bread – 31R arrivals|
|WHERE||The parking lot next to Panera Bread. This is in a big shopping plaza, also in this plaza are McDonald’s, Chipotle, and Marshalls. Look for the sign on Rockaway Turnpike – it’s on the right if you’re heading south, or on the left if you’re heading north. Choose a parking spot and you’re good to go.|
|WHAT||The only thing you can see here are 31R arrivals. 31L arrivals are distant if you face the other way. The hardest thing about this spot are the power lines, but they are avoidable if you figure out where they are.|
|TIME||Good from ~1PM until sunset.|
|MISC.||It’s suggested to purchase something from Panera Bread if you spot here – it reduces the chance that you’ll get in trouble if someone catches you. Always stay by your car, and keep in mind, it’s a public parking lot, so you’ll get some looks from locals.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||You need a long lens for this spot. 300mm for a B748, 400mm for an A321.|
|Spot #9 – Howard Beach/Frank M Charles Park – 13R Arrivals or 31L Departures|
|WHERE||There are two options. One is a spot in this nice park right on the water. Getting there is pretty easy. Get off the Belt Parkway at exit 17N (travelling west) and take the first left. All of the streets leading to the park are one way. When you reach the ‘do not enter’, make a left onto 155th ave, then a right on 99th st, a right on 157th ave, and finally, a left on 98th st. This takes you all the way down to the park (keep driving until the end). There is a good amount of parking. Get out of the car, go straight ahead into the park, then turn left. The best spot to take pictures is on the beach.
Otherwise you can park at the 165th Ave corner Cross Bay Blvd. and spot from there. Its a better position for the departure shots from 31L.By public transport: When you want to travel from the airport, you can embark the AirTrain at all stops. Important: The AirTrain stop to be free at Lefferts Blvd.From Lefferts Blvd to Howard Beach means a $5 charge.Note: Make sure to embark trains to Howard Beach and not Jamaica. Jamaica-bound trains go a different way than Howard Beach-bound trains.
|WHAT||From here, you can see all departures from runway 31L, arrivals on 13R, and arrivals on 13L in the distance. There are two different climbs from 31L (the canarsie climb and the breezy point climb). One will give you belly shots – see shots 1 and 2, and the other will provide side on photos – see shots 3 and 4. (they’re used equally). Arrivals on 13R are EXTREMELY rare, as it is typically used as a departure runway. In a lucky case, the typical situation will be reversed, and the planes will depart on 13L and land on 13R – see shots 5 and 6.|
|TIME||This spot is great any time after mid morning (~ 10:00)|
|MISC.||DO NOT go past the edge of the beach on the north side, as it turns into private property. There’s nothing here, so bring everything you need. There is lots of shade under the trees and benches if you get tired. Lots of families are here, and some may give you looks or ask what you’re doing. Just be friendly and there won’t be any problems.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||For 31L departures, the planes come into view very far away and get close enough that widebodies only need about 160mm, narrowbodies about 200mm. For 13R arrivals, 300mm for an A320, 200mm for an A330, 160mm for an A380.|
|Spot#10 – Terminal 5 Parking Garage – Movements on 13L, 22R, Taxiways, and Gates at T7, T5, and T4|
|WHERE||The top deck of the Terminal 5 parking garage. Follow the JFK Expressway or Van Wyck Expressway into the airport, and follow the signs for Terminal 5 parking. Drive all the way to the top. Alternatively, take the airtrain to terminal 5, follow the signs for the parking garage and go all the way up the stairs.|
|WHAT||There’s a lot to see at this spot. One side of the garage offers views of gates at T7 and T5, as well as movements on runway 31R/13L and it’s parallel taxiways. Another side of the garage offers views of gates at T5 and T4, runway 22R/4L, runway 22L/4R in the distance (heat haze!) and taxiways.|
|TIME||This spot is good all day, just use the side of the garage that the light is best for.|
|MISC.||Security is super tight at this spot – there are security cameras everywhere. Stay in your car or very close to it. If you don’t have a car, there is usually a big red snow melter in the NE corner of the garage that you can hide behind. If they see you, a security car will come and they’ll most likely kick you out – don’t resist or you’ll just create more problems. There’s nothing here, so bring what you need.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Depends on what you want to see. Planes at gates can require as little as 100mm. Planes on 31R/13L require between 200mm and 300mm.|
|Spot #11 – AirTrain Ride|
|WHERE||We can recommend to at least once use the AirTrain for some photographs out of the train along the carriageway of JFK’s AirTrain. When you want to do so, you can embark the AirTrain at several stops. Important: The AirTrain begins to be free at Lefferts Blvd. If you embark already at Jamaica, Howard Beach, fees of $5 will apply. Make sure you take the train from a free station. These are the stations free to use:
Lefferts Blvd, Federal Circle, Terminal 1, Terminal 2, Terminal 4, Terminal 5, Terminal 7, Terminal 8, Federal Circle, Lefferts Blvd.
Note: These trains go roundtrip. This means the carriageway at JFK is a loop – trains never terminate. If you are standing at a platform towards JFK, do not wonder if the destination of the train is Howard Beach or Jamaica. The trains will make this above mentioned loop and will then continue onto Howard Beach or Jamaica. You don’t need any tickets.
|WHAT||All movements of the airport (limited at some parts however). You can take pictures of parking aircraft, landing aircraft, taxiing planes or whatever. It offers a great view and is a ride worth.|
|TIME||If you want to perfectly photograph planes at Terminal 4, 5, and 7 you should grab a train in the afternoon. Planes at Terminal 8 are best to be photographed in the evening. For spotting planes parked at Terminal 1 and 2, travelling in the morning hours should be fine. This refers to summer months.|
|MISC.||Remember: Some stations are not free to travel. Check the ‘WHERE’ box above from which station it is free of charge to embark the AirTrain.
The glasses of the carriages are very very lightely tinted. Not too much to demolish you photograph.
The New York MTA cards are NOT valid for an AirTrain journey if you embark at a station beyond Lefferts Blvd. If you want to aviod this $5 charge, use the E/J line to Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike or 121st (J-trains). From here, catch up the Q10/Q10 Ltd bus to JFK Airport and dismount at Lefferts Blvd. Using the AirTrain from here is free.
|FOCAL LENGTH||Very dependend from your shot, this is the focal lenght which was used for the pictures below: American Boeing 767 at AA Maintenance: 80mm; A321 American Airlines 170mm; British Airways Boeing 747400: 85mm, Airbus A318 British Airways: 85mm; Virgin Atlantic A340: 120mm; Caribbean Boeing 737-800: 85mm|