Philadelphia Intl. Airport Spotting Guide

Philadelphia, PHL, is one of the biggest airports on the US Eastcoast and handled over 30 Mio passengers in 2014. The airport is used by US Airways, now American Airlines, as a hub, connecting the USA with international destinations, mainly in Europe and South America. The traffic is dominated by AA/US, who are responsible for at least 2/3 of all movements. As their fleet is currently being repainted you will still see quite a lot of airplanes in US Airways colours, but this will change crastically over the next few years. Most of the A330s and B757s are already in AA cs. As for the regional traffic, you will see several different airlines, mostly still operating under the US Airways Express brand with types like the E70/E75, CRJ200, CRJ900 and Dash8-100. Otherwise it’s mostly A320family aircraft.

Other important carriers are Southwest, Frontier and Delta Airlines. International airlines are a rare sight with Air Canada to Toronto,  Lufthansa to Frankfurt, Qatar to Doha and British Airways to London Heathrow, the latter using their brand new 787.

Spotting in general is tolerated at PHL by the local police, as long as you stay away from the airport perimeter fence. Never park next to it and when spotting also try to stay away from it and you will not run into any trouble during your stay.

Written by Julian Mittnacht & Jan Seba (visited December 2014).

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Weather
Airport Information Runways 9L/27R 9R/27L
2.896 m (9.500 ft) 3.202 m (10.506 ft)
08/26 17/35
1.524 m (5.000 ft)  1.981 m (6.500 ft)
Terminal Concourse A Concourse B Concourse C
AA, AA Eagle, BA, LH, QR, US, NK US Airways/Express US Airways/Express
Concourse D Concourse E  Concourse F
United, Delta, other US carriers Frontier, Southwest, JetBlue, US Express
Spotting Information Ladder No need at any location
Car Absolutely necessary
Restrooms Within the Terminals, Hotels or the Penrose Plaza Shopping Center
Drinks/Food There is a huge Shopping Center northwards of the airport with lots of fast food restaurants and a supermarket (tagged on the map)
Hotels There are plenty of hotels within the airport area in all price categories.
Season Best sun position between September and March.
Runway Usage 09L/27R When the wind blows from the East, 09L is the main runway for the departures. If the wind blows from the West, 27R is the main runway for the arrivals.
09R/27L When the wind comes from the East, 09R is the main runway from the arrivals. If the wind comes from the West, 27L is the main ruwnay for the deparutres.
08/26 Due to its shortness only used by small props and regional flights. 26 is used for arrivals only, 08 for the departures.
17/35 Due to its shortness only used by small props and regional flights.35 is used for arrivals only. 17 for the departures.

Spot #1 – Fire Fighting Area – 27L Departures (09R arrivals)
WHERE Its pretty easy to find all locations in PHL as they are all located on the same road which is leading around the whole airport area. The road is called Fort Mifflin Road and the spot is situated next to the fire fighting training facilities. There is a flat area where you can park your car. Spotting can be done directly from the parking area or from the side side of the road, which is recommended as you have more room to move around and position yourself between the lamp posts.
WHAT This spot is perfect for the 27L departures of all kind of aicrafts. Regular aircraft are not too high and the smaller props don´t use the whole runway length, so they are at a perfect height to take a picture. Only fo heavies like the Qatar B777, or some US Airways A330 it is advisable to move a bit more westward, because otherwise they would be too low. Some of the smaller aircraft bank to the left immediately after takeoff, which allows for some very nice shots. For 09R arrivals you can park your car here and walk aprroximate 800 meters westwards to find an acceptable photoposition.
TIME In the winter the spot is good for almost the whole day! In the summer its okay for just a few hours starting in the late morning until afternoon.
MISCELLANEOUS Here is absolutely nothing nearby. Bring the stuff you need with you.
FOCAL LENGTH  150mm for an A330 and 230mm for an A320. A small Dash 8-100 is a little over 400mm (unless it’s banking towards you).


Spot #2 – Fort Mifflin – 27R Arrivals
WHERE This spot is located at the Fort Mifflin road too, just next to the entrance of this historical landmark. Park your car on the shoulder of the street just as tagged on the map but not on the airports perimeter side. You can walk along the road, which is not frequent in use, to find you preferred photo position. You can also move back onto the grass area to get a bit more distance between you and the approach path.
WHAT Here you get all 27R arrivals.
TIME In the winter the spot is good for almost the whole day! In the summer its okay for just a few hours starting in the late morning until afternoon.
MISCELLANEOUS Here is absolutely nothing nearby. Bring the stuff you need with you.
FOCAL LENGTH  80mm for an A330 and 120mm for an A320.


Spot #3 – Tunnel Entrance – 26 Arrivals
WHERE This spot is not far away from the Fort Mifflin too, just short before the tunnel which is leading under RWY 26. Park your car on the shoulder before the entrance. Walk a few meters back to find a good photo position. Again don´t park on the side of the airports perimeter.
WHAT You get all 26 arrivals here but as this runway is not frequent in use it becomes boring very quickly. Luckily it is pretty close the spot #2 and you can make frequent changes if you want to.
TIME In the winter the spot is good for almost the whole day! In the summer its okay for just a few hours starting in the late morning until afternoon.
MISCELLANEOUS Here is absolutely nothing nearby. Bring the stuff you need with you.
FOCAL LENGTH

Sorry but we can provide sample pictures here. We visited this spot but due to the low traffic we didn´t make pictures.

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3 thoughts on “Philadelphia Intl. Airport Spotting Guide

  1. Jerry Landers

    There’s one more site for runway 35 arrivals located about 2/3 of the way going from spot 1 to 2 just before the road turns to the left for the second time. It’s used for the smaller aircraft and isn’t as busy as runways 9/27, but you can get some great views here. As usual, bring the stuff you need with you

    1. JulianJulian Post author

      Hi Jerry, if you can provide us all the infos and some sample pictures we would like to add this location to the guide.
      Thanks, Julian

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