Concord Buchanan Field Airport (CCR/KCCR) has been around since 1942 starting off as a military base for training pilots. Now Buchanan Field is a county-owned airport that at one point was busier than KSFO and KJFK. It was ranked the 16th busiest airport in the nation in 1977. It served many airlines that came and went in the early 1970s to the 1990s. It was used by Pacific Southwest Airlines with service to KLAX on BAe 146s, USAir Express Dash 8s, and Beech 1900Cs. Then American Eagle Airlines (Wings West Airlines) used their Sweagin Fairchild Metroliners on a route to their hub at the time SJC with four daily flights. Now commercial service is back with the introduction of JetSuiteX (JSX) flying 5 daily flights from Burbank to Concord. Soon to bring back their Concord to Las Vegas flights.
Buchanan Field mainly consists of General Aviation of Small Props, Turboprops, and Business Jets, and JSX with their Embraer E135 and E145s. Buchanan Field provides very close interactions with aircraft that most airports don’t. Buchanan Field is beginning to grow, more due to the great area it is in. Being in the East Bay, close to Concord, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Berkley, Napa, and Fairfield it’s becoming and more common destination with business people. There are a lot of corporate airlines that come into Buchanan Field like NetJets, FlexJet, Wheels Up, and Delta Private Jets.
The airport which is home to a civilian-owned Bell UH-1H Huey and a CH-46E Sea Knight that are both still airworthy, 3 Beechcraft Twin Bonanzas, a Pilatus PC-6 and many experimental aircraft like Epic LT, Vans Aircraft, Sea Rays, and Ultra Lights. Concord has some beautiful gems that are active and flying weekly.
Please note that most FBOs at the field don’t permit spotters on their parking lot to take photos of planes on their ramp. This is a pretty general rule at most FBOs at any airport. If you do want to take photos the best rule is to go into the FBO and ask if you are allowed to. Most of the time they will but you can post or take photos with registrations visible in the photo.
Here is a detailed map of the taxi- and runways of the airport and other amenities nearby.
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|01L/19R||19R/1L: 1524 x 46m|
|01R/19L||19L/1R: 844 x 23m|
|14L/32R||32R/14L: 1403 x 46m|
|14R/32L||32L/14R: 853 x 23m|
|JSX||JSX is the only terminal on the field.|
|FBO||Pacific States Aviation, Concord Jet, Sterling Aviation|
|Ladder||Not needed, but step stools are recommended for the best chance of no fence in pictures.|
|Car/Public Transport||Highly recommended due to travel between spots with runway changes.|
|Restrooms||One at Playground or JSX. Other spots shopping centers around the airport.|
|Drinks/Food||Lots of options around the airport that aren’t more than 10 mins away.|
|Hotels||Plenty of hotels around and the Crowne Plaza is directly on the field.|
|Season||Winter and Spring are best due to lighting and less heat haze.|
Summer traffic is higher due to better weather and school is out for Young Eagles and Flight School.
|Security||Airport Ops usually know what you are doing as long as your not leaning, climbing, or hurting the fences around the airport. Another is please be respectful when at the playground, there are usually little kids since many families and some preschools bring children to the playground to play and have fun. So keep in mind that parents are watching and listening, most are friendly and are pilots themselves. Police will drive by for patrols but don’t normally bother spotters.|
|General Info||Standard operations of runways are 19L/R|
Runways 1s and 32s will go into effect if winds shift and it doesn’t take much since its general props.
Runways 14 almost never go into use due to winds never favoring headwind landings.
|Spot #1 – Playground – Depatures/Arrivals of 19L/R and Arrivals/Depatures of 32L/R and taxiways A, B, J.|
|WHERE||The playground is the most popular area for spotting. Parking is free and is located at the end of John Glenn Dr, the best address to put in is the Public Viewing Plaza which is 201 John Glenn Dr, Concord, CA 94520.|
|WHAT||The views you get to see are 19/1s departures and arrivals, or 14/32s departures and arrivals. Taxiway Juliet runs along the fencing of the playground which is the main taxiway to get to 32R which is the larger runway of the 32s. You can get taxi shots of aircraft going down Alpha, Bravo, and the main ramp when they are taxing to or from 19L/R.|
|TIME||Lighting is the best in the morning for 19s and taxiways Alpha, and the main ramp. Afternoon are better for Juliet and 32 arrivals and departures. Note that depending on winds that runways can change at any given time and you may have to move spots for optimal light.|
|MISC.||No ladder or step stool needed if shooting through the fence but if available a step stool is optimal. There are bleachers on the west side of the playground to get photos over the fence but there is a Huey that can sometimes get in the way.|
There are food options nearby like Taco Bell down the street, or Panda Express, Habit Burger, Jimmy Johns, Starbucks, Blaze Pizza down across the main road on Concord Ave.
Restrooms are available right outside of the small gated area for kids to play in.
|FOCAL LENGTH||For runway arrivals and taxiway shots on Alpha or Bravo 70-300mm.|
Taxi shots from Juliet 18-55mm
|Spot #2 – JSX ramp – Parked JSX planes|
|WHERE||This spot is located at the JSX terminal between the terminal and the tower. There will be a section of fencing that has a big gate to let unloading passengers out back to their cars or to get a rental car.|
|WHAT||Here you can get JSX taxing into the ramp, loading/unloading pax, or taxing out for departure.|
|TIME||This spot is good all day, since JSX parks their aircraft facing Northwest it stays in good lighting all day.|
|MISC.||When the gate gets opened stay to the side of the gate to let people out and once everyone is off then you can take photos. Do NOT cross the fence line due to security risk and could have police call on you. Restrooms are located inside the JSX terminal or walk the 2 minutes to the playground bathroom.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||18-55mm usually does fine when they are parked.|
Spot #3 – Hotel Parking Lot – Transient Aircraft Parking,
|WHERE||The hotel parking lot is behind the Crowne Plaza of Concord/Walnut Creek. The best entrance for getting to the back parking lot is to go turn left off of Concord Ave onto John Glenn Dr, then turn left into the hotel and turn right to the gate there. Parking if open as long as there’s a spot|
|WHAT||Here is the best view of transient parking due to the amount of flexibility of moving to get a better angle of aircraft. These aircraft are usually out of town visitors that don’t go in any FBO on the field.|
|TIME||Usually all day is fine since they park facing East or West. 1L/R.|
|MISC.||Due to the Crowne Plaza there is now paid parking after 30 minutes. This means if you are there longer than 30 minutes it adds up. The max is $16 is what I found.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||18-200mm is what would be the best. It just depends on where the aircraft parked.|
Spot #4- Golf Course Parking Lot – Transient parking/Parked Aircraft/01L-R arrivals
|WHERE||Buchanan Fields Golf Course is right off of Concord Ave on the opposite of spot 3. There is one entrance and when you come in to make a right to the big red fence on the right. Usually, there is plenty of parking. This is a spot that you only need to be there for about 10-15 mins.|
|WHAT||This spot is for photos of Transient aircraft that are parked there. These aircraft are usually out of town visitors that don’t go in any FBO on the field. Also if in the morning 1L/R is in use landing photos are able to be taken.|
|TIME||Usually all day is fine since they park facing East or West. 1L/R landing photos are best in the morning hours between sunrise to 12-1 pm.|
|MISC.||Don’t stick around for too long as you may get asked to leave if you are there for a long enough time. This hasn’t happened to me yet but as a precaution. There are no public restrooms that I know of at this location. Another issue is the golf course closes after sunset so be aware that this spot is not available after sunset.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70mm for transient ramp photos.|
70-300mm for runway 1L/R landings.
Spot #5 – Gravel parking lot – 19/1s
|WHERE||Gravel Parking Lot is on the West side of the field right against taxiway Echo. It is located right off of Buchanan Field Rd. The best option is to drop a pin if able on a navigation app to get to this location.|
|WHAT||Here is best for 1L/R arrivals, departures and aircraft taxing down echo to 1L or taxing to Concord Jet or LCA hangers (Northwest Hangers)|
|TIME||The best time for the spot is around 1pm-sunset in winter. Summer around 12ish-sunset. (Note: Sunset is about 10-15mins earlier than what most apps say due to Berkely hill behind you.|
|MISC.||A step stool is highly recommended to get the best photos. There are no restrooms at this spot but Target and Starbucks are about 5 mins down the road to use the restroom.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||18-55mm best for taxiway shots of planes.|
70-300mm for landing shots on 1L.
400mm for 1R landings.
Spot #6 – Cal Star – Cal Star Ramp
|WHERE||Cal Star is located on the north side of the field and is a little bit more difficult to get too. Our recommendation is to park at Valley Relocation & Storage Inc and then cross the street to take the pictures. We highly recommend taking caution when doing this, this is a frontage road but people do drive quite fast on this road.|
|WHAT||This is the best place to get photos of Reach/Cal Star (Same company) helicopters when they are at their ramp. They are always flying so there is no guaranty that they will be there since they are a medical helicopter.|
|MISC.||Nothing nearby. Best to shoot through the fence.|
Spot #7 – Iron Horse Trail – 19 arrivals
|WHERE||This spot is located off of Solano Way just down the street from Iron Horse Park. The best way to get to the trail would be to drive and park in the gravel/dirt lot off the side of the road on the airport side.|
|WHAT||Runway 19L/R arrival photos.|
|TIME||The best time is all day. Just move on to the other side of the runway to get better photos in the light depending on the time of day.|
|MISC.||There can be homeless on the trail so be careful and stay alert at all times that you are at this spot. Usually, there are a constant flow of people jogging, running, or biking. Just stay on the trail and off to the side to let runners, bikers, and county workers drive by. There are no restrooms at this location but there are some dealerships and restaurants nearby.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70-300mm is my preferred amount depending on the aircraft.|