Boston Logan International Airport (BOS/KBOS) handled 40,9 Mio passengers in 2018 and is one of the biggest airports along the US east coast. JetBlue, American, Delta and Cape Air are the main carriers. International traffic is dominated by European carriers, but the demand for flights to/from Asia and the Middle East has rapidly increased and currently JAL, Hainan, Cathay and Korean offer flights to Asia whilst Emirates and Qatar established regular flights to MEA. The latest addition to the airport’s portfolio is a non-stop flight served by Hawaiian Airlines from/to HNL, which now is the longest domestic flight within the US and the 2nd longest domestic flight worldwide!
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. Apply for your permit through this online Plane Spotting Request Form. Simply fill in the required information, but make sure to submit your request 72 hours prior to your intended spotting date. Once your request has been processed and upon approval you will receive a response via 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, Harry Xue (photos spot #4) and Nils Andresen (photos spot #10) / Last Update July 2020
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| (25 votes, average: 3.72 out of 5)
|04L/22R||2.396 m (7.861 ft)|
|04R/22L||3.050 m (10.005 ft)|
|09/27||2.134 m (7.000 ft)|
|14/32||1.524 m (5.000 ft)|
|15L/33R||779 m (2.557 ft)|
|15R/33L||3.073 m (10.083 ft)|
|Terminal A||Delta, Southwest|
|Terminal B||Air Canada, American, Spirit, Alaska, United|
|Terminal C||Cape Air, JetBlue, Aer Lingus|
|Terminal E||All Intl. Carriers|
|Ladder||Not needed and not recommended.|
|Car/Public Transport||Car is recommended as the spotting locations are spread around the airpor but a couple of spots are reachable by public transport too (see description below). Also two spots are on the parking garages of the terminal.|
|Restrooms||Only directly available at the two terminal spots 6 and 8.|
|Drinks/Food||Not much choice directly at the locations except spot 7 and of course the terminal locations 6 and 8.|
|Hotels||There are a few hotels close to the airport, but all are fairly pricey. Hotels in downtown are in the same price range.|
|Season||Year round. As the airport is right at the ocean it is usually very windy. In the summer heat haze is an issue, in the winter it can get extremely cold.|
|04L/22R||Mainly used for departures in both directions.|
|04R/22L||Mainly used for arrivals in both directions.|
|09/27||27 used for departures and arrivals, 09 used for departures only.|
|14/32||32 only used by turboprops for arrivals, 14 not in use.|
|15L/33R||Both are used by small props for departures, e. g. Cape Air.|
|15R/33L||33L mainly used for departures and arrivals, in rare case 15R is used for departures and arrivals (it’s the least preferred operation by ATC as it limits the capacity significantly).|
|Spot #1 – Coughlin Park – 27 arrivals|
|WHERE||This spot is pretty far away from the airport, located at the Coughlin Park in Winthrop, MA. 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.
Coughlin Park actually can be reached by bus. It is five minutes from Shirley St @ Bay View Ave which is serviced by the 712 & 713.
|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 any issues with that. 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 take great touch down pictures from aircraft 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, hence not recommended during the summer. For October, it was reported to be a problem as well, but 22L arrivals should be fine.|
|MISC.||Nothing within walking distance, so bring what you need. 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.||There are benches at the beach, but no restrooms. No food and drinks, but can all be found on Saratoga/Main St.|
|Spot #4 – Constitution Beach – Taxiway November (prior 22R Departure) + 04L Departures + 22L Arrivals|
|WHERE||One of the most famous spots in Boston is the Constitution Beach Park and is actually located all along the Bayswater front here along Bayswater street (as marked on the map). It’s easy to reach by the Metro, just 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 of charge).|
|WHAT||You get all aircraft coming along taxiway November for 22R departure. 22L arrivals can also be shot although your view is a bit limited and you have to adjust your position 22L is quite far from the beach. 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 in the park. Some Fast Food Restaurants are behind the railroad tracks. In general it’s a pretty nice place as you can sit on the benches or relax on the beach while you are taking pictures.
Keep a bit low profile with your camera so you do not stress local residents out.
B738 on taxiway November = 90mm
|Spot #5 – Fort Independence/Pleasure Bay – 04R arrivals|
|WHERE||This spot 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 free of charge. Using public transit is an option, please check Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for details.|
|WHAT||All 04R arrivals.|
|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 Independence 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 + 22L Line-Ups|
|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 22L Line-Ups, too.|
|TIME||Light is good the whole day for 22L arrivals, because this spot offers both sides – just change around noon. 22L Line-Ups are only good in the morning.|
|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||Morning: 50-400mm (Arrivals -> B767 =70mm /// Line-Ups -> A300 = 250mm)
Afternoon: 50-250mm (A320 Arrival = 150mm)
|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|
|Spot #9 – Thomas J Butler Memorial Park – 04L & 04R Arrivals|
|WHERE||From early afternoon until sunset this spot, which is located inside of T.J. Butler Memorial Park, is an alternative to spot #5. More focal length is required, but the angle is also different (see sample photos), and arrivals on 04L can be shot as well. It’s a bit of a challenge to shoot from here as light poles and power lines partially obstruct the view. The sample photos were taken standing on the bench, which is located right in the middle between the eastern entrance of the park (at the corner of Farragut Rd and E 1st St) and the next entrance down the street (E 1st Street).
Parking is available just outside of the park along the fence, but it is limited to two hours and some of the lots are designated for residents only (permit required). This spotting location can also be reached by public transit, there’s a bus stop right at the park, please check the website of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for details.
|WHAT||All aircraft on final for 04L and 04R.|
|TIME||Early afternoon until sunset.|
|MISC.||No stores or restaurants directly at the park, so bring everything you need. Also, no restrooms, no shade, no shelter!|
|FOCAL LENGTH||50-200 mm for 04L arrivals
180-400 mm for 04R arrivals
Sample photos for arrivals on 04L:
|Spot #10 – East Boston Memorial Park – 33L Departures|
|WHERE||This spot is located inside East Boston Memorial Park, which is nestled between the East Boston township and the airport.
From the airport, simply take the free of charge airport shuttle bus, which stops at the Airport MBTA station (same line, which stops at the rental car center). Get off at the MBTA station and keep to the left, there is a path, which leads right into the park.
In case you are planning to go there by car, we highly recommend to use GPS navigation as it is a little cumbersome to get there. In any case, make sure to avoid Highway I-90 West (“Mass Turnpike”) as this interstate will take you right into a tunnel (toll charges apply!) towards South Boston and Boston Downtown. There is parking available at the park.
|WHAT||Heavies in climb after takeoff from runway 33L. Smaller (single aisle) aircraft are likely too high to get a decent shot.|
|TIME||From noon until sunset.|
|MISC.||Restaurants and convenience stores can be found in the East Boston neighborhood, which is in walking distance from the park. In the park are a few trees, which provide some shade. There are a handful of lamp posts you might have to work around.|