Boston Logan International airport handled 36,3 Mio passengers in 2016 and is one of the biggest airports on the US east coast. JetBlue, American, Spirit, Cape Air and Delta are the main carriers. International traffic is dominated by European carriers but the demand for flights is increasing rapidly and JAL, Hainan and Cathay offering flights to Asia whilst Emirates and Qatar the MEA.
Almost the entire airport is surrounded by water, which makes plane spotting and getting around a bit difficult. The distances between the spots are pretty huge and six runways in different directions are in use. Due to the airport’s location right at the open sea it is prone to sudden changes of the wind direction, so a runway switch is not unusual. The spotting locations are pretty nice as you are always close to the water and you can get some unique pictures with the Boston skyline in the background. When you want to get closer to the action, then the parking garages are the only options, however, you need to get a permit beforehand to take pictures of the airfield from up there.
Photo Permit: If you plan to visit one of the airport’s parking garages a photo permit is required! There’s a good chance you will be checked by Massport Security and/or Police and you will be requested to show your permit. The permit can be obtained by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org . Provide your name, reason (taking photos of aircrafts) and the date and time of your intended visit. If you are not sure or want to visit on more than one day, then provide all desired dates and times. Make sure to submit your request between two weeks and 72 hours prior to your intended spotting date. Your request will be forwarded to the FBI and upon approval you will receive a response to your initial email, normally within 2 business days. This response email is your permit, print it out (or have it available on your smart phone) and always carry it with you along with a valid ID.
Written by Julian Mittnacht, Clive Grant, Thomas Okaty, Severin Hackenberger and Harry Xue (photos spot #4) / Last Update May 2017
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|2.396 m (7.861 ft)||3.050 m (10.005 ft)||2.134 m (7.000 ft)|
|779 (2.557 ft)||3.073 m (10.083 ft)||1.524 m (5.000 ft)|
|Terminals||Terminal A||Terminal B|
|Delta, United Express, Alaska||Air Canada, American,
|Terminal C||Terminal E|
|Cape Air, JetBlue, United,||All Intl. Carriers|
|Spotting Information||Ladder||not needed|
|Car||recommended as the spotting locations are spread around the airport|
|Restrooms||see description for the different spots|
|Drinks/Food||see description for the different spots|
|Hotels||hotels are pretty expensive in the summer and not close to the airport (check priceline.com to get one in downtown Boston)|
|Season||best during the summer, winter is pretty heavy|
|Runway Usage||04L/22R||the inner runway is mainly in use for departures in both directions|
|04R/22L||the outer runway is mainly in use for arrivals in both directions|
|09/27||27 mainly in use|
|15L/33R||not in use|
|15R/33L||33L mainly in use|
|Spot #1 – Coughlin Park – 27 arrivals|
|WHERE||This spot is pretty far away from the airport, located at the Coughlin Park in Winthrop, MA. I have no information if it’s possible to reach this location by public transportation. If you have a car, please use your GPS or Google Maps to reach the Park next to the Bay View Ave. You can park your car along the road for free.|
|WHAT||This is the best, and only spot to catch the 27 arrivals. Find your preferred spot along the BayView Ave and the Grand View Ave. Don’t enter Coughlin Park as the planes are directly above this place. If you want to take the famous evening pictures with the skyline in the background, go into the Grand View Ave and you will see the airport (you have also a better angle here).|
|TIME||Great spot from morning until afternoon (depends on time of the year)|
|MISC.||There are many dogs in the park. So be careful if you have a problem with this animal. There are no facilities at this place as well.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||50-200 mm|
|Spot #2 – Sargent Street – 22L arrivals / 22R departures / taxiway Mike|
|WHERE||It’s tricky to find this location. Again it’s in Winthrop, MA. Try to get on Pleasant St until you can make a turn into Sargent St. Drive down this road all the way until you reach the end and see the water and airport in front of you. Park your car here at the end of the road. On the left side is a small path and a ladder which leads to the water. Here you are.|
|WHAT||Once arrived, you can make great touch down pictures from aircrafts arriving on 22L. Also the taxiway,which is between the two runways, is within range. You see the 22R departures too and can take interesting pictures with the skyline of downtown Boston in the back.|
|TIME||Only good from morning until noon. There can be a lot of heat haze as you have to take your pictures over the water. So I wouldn’t recommend during the summer. In October I had problems as well but 22L arrivals should be fine.|
|MISC.||Again here is nothing within walking distance so please take the stuff you need before you go there. No restrooms, no food and drinks, but can all be found on Saratoga St / Rte 145, which is the main access road to Winthrop (coming from BOS / I-90).|
|FOCAL LENGTH||300-500 mm|
|Spot #3 – Beach/Boat Ramp – 22L arrivals + 22 Line-Ups|
|WHERE||These spots are located along Simon J Donovan Beach next to Pleasant St or at the Boat Ramp at the end of Loring Rd. The latter is accessible for the public, but privacy of adjacent properties needs to be respected. Otherwise you can stay at the beach but that is farther away from the action than the boat ramp.
This is a residential area, parking is available roadside (Court Rd & Loring Rd) at no charge, but mind potential restrictions (e. g. street cleaning).
|WHAT||Best place for 22L arrivals and for Line-Ups onto runway 22L and R.|
|TIME||Only good from morning until noon. There can be a lot of heat haze in summer months as you have to take your pictures over the water.|
|MISC.||At the beach are benches to sit down but no restrooms. No food and drinks, but can all be found on Saratoga/Main St.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||200-500 mm|
|Spot #4 – Constitution Beach – 22R departures / taxiway November|
|WHERE||One of the most famous spots in Boston is the Constitution Beach Park. It’s easy to reach by the Metro. Take the Blue Line from the Airport to Orient Heights Station and follow Barnes Ave south-westwards for about two hundred meters. By car take the exit from 145 (Saratoga St) into Barnes Ave and park your car in the park (free).|
|WHAT||It’s a pretty nice place as you can sit on the benches or relax on the beach while you are taking pictures. You get all aircrafts coming along taxiway November for 22R departure. 22L arrivals are far away for single aisle aircrafts. If you want to get those, go to Bayswater St which is within walking distance.|
|TIME||Good spot from the afternoon until evening. There can be a lot of heat haze as you have to take your pictures over the water.|
|MISC.||Restrooms are within the park. Some Fast Food Restaurants are behind the railroads.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||200-400 mm|
|Spot #5 – Fort Independence/Pleasure Bay – 04R arrivals|
|WHERE||A spot that is pretty far away from the airport. You have to drive to Fort Independence on Castle Island, next to the Boston harbor. It’s a famous place for locals as there is a pretty big beach and a huge park. There are many parking lots where you can park your car for free.|
|WHAT||You get all the 04R arrivals from these two spots.|
|TIME||From morning until noon find a place next to the fort. When the sun turns, return back to the parking lots and find a place along the boardwalk.|
|MISC.||There are restrooms and small snack bars around the fort. During the summer it’s pretty busy here.|
Morning location. Pictures taken from the Castle Island/Fort Indipendence parking lot
Afternoon location. Pictures taken from the Head Island Causeway.
|Spot #6 – Terminal B Parking Garage – Terminal A & B ramp action, 04/22 & 09/27 arrivals & departures|
|WHERE||The location is on the higher levels of parking garage Terminal B or Central Parking. It’s up to you where you want to position yourself.|
|WHAT||You can photograph different areas from this location. Traffic on the ramps to the north and east, traffic on Runway 04L/22R and traffic on taxiway M between the parallel runways. Shots of arriving or departing traffic on 09/27 are also possible, but backlit for most part of the day.|
|TIME||Eastside (B & C ramp): From mid afternoon to sunset.
Westside (A & B ramp): Early morning to around 10am.
|MISC.||A photo permit is mandatory! Exact information how to get the permit can be found in the introduction!
Massport Security and Airport Police frequently patrol all levels and you will be asked to leave immediately when you don’t have a permit. Food, drinks and restrooms can be found in Terminal B.
|FOCAL LENGTH||100-300 mm depending on aircraft type and location.|
|Spot #7 – Saratoga St – 22L arrivals|
|WHERE||These spots are located along the Saratoga St. The morning spot can be found on the bridge between Saratoga and Main St next to the Dunkin’ Donut shop. In the afternoon, once you start getting backlight, switch to the parking lot of Domino’s Pizza or CVS (pharmacy/drugstore).
Both can be reached by car of course and public transport. Use the bus lines 712/713 to reach the stop “Saratoga St” (afternoon) or “Main St” (morning). Apart from the bus system you can use the metro, too. Just take the “Blue line” and exit the metro line at “Orient heights” – then walk down the Saratoga St for about a 1/2 mile (~10 minutes) to the afternoon side and around a whole mile (~20 minutes) for the morning spot.
|WHAT||Perfect for Arrivals on runway 22L. From the bridge (morning side) you can take pictures of Line-Ups, too.|
|TIME||Light is good the whole day, because this spot offers both sides – just change around noon.|
|MISC.||Food, drinks and restrooms can be found at Domino’s, CVS or DD. No ladder needed. In the summer months you might have to deal with heat haze on the Line-Up shots.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||From the parking:
100-300mm (Dash = 170mm)From the bridge:
Arrivals 50 – 200mm ( B767 = 70mm and B737 = 95mm)
Line-Ups 200-400mm ( B737 = 270mm).
|Spot #8 – Central Parking Garage – 15R/33L & 04/22 arrivals & departures, all ramp action (partially obstructed)|
|WHERE||This spot is right in the heart of the airport. The easiest way to get here is by car – which is also a nice asset to have close by (food, drinks, shelter) while spotting – but you will have to pay for parking (check www.massport.com for updated parking fees). No matter from which side you are approaching the airport, simply follow the signs to “Arrivals” and then “Central Parking Garage”. Drive up to the highest level (or the one below in case it is raining) and park your car anywhere between the ATC tower and the northern side of the deck (near the elevators to Terminal C).
This spot can also be reached by public transport. Take the MBTA Blue Line (Bowdoin-Wonderland) and get off at the Airport station. Then take the airport shuttle bus to Terminal C. There is an overpass (above the terminal loop road) from the terminal to the parking garage. Once you are on the garage side take the elevator up to the highest level.
|WHAT||This is the best all-around spot for BOS. As described in the title you have most of the action – no matter which runway is in use – within reach of your camera during the major portion of the day. From this spot you will be able to catch all international arrivals and departures as they have to pass by on their way to/from Terminal E, either on runway 15R/33L or one of the taxiways parallel to that runway. The vast majority of international flights arrives from noon onwards until late in the evening. Later in the afternoon you will have a good view (meaning you can get properly lit shots then) of the ramp between Terminal C and B and runways 04L/R or 22L/R when those are in use.|
|TIME||Great spot pretty much all day!
Sunrise to mid morning (~9am): Traffic between Terminal A & B, but only a small section of the ramp is visible
Late morning (~11am) to sunset: 15R/33L arrivals & departures and ramp action between Terminal C & E*
Mid afternoon (~3pm) to sunset: 04/22 arrivals & departures and ramp action between Terminal B & C
*there is no Terminal D
|MISC.||A photo permit is mandatory! Massport Security and Airport Police frequently patrol all levels and you will be asked to leave immediately when you don’t have a permit. Food, drinks and restrooms can be found in Terminal C (JetBlue).|
|FOCAL LENGTH||100-600 mm|