Knoxville McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS/KTYS) is located roughly 20km south of the centre of Downtown Knoxville and is named in honor of Charles McGhee Tyson – a US fighterpilot, who did not return from a flight in WW1. The airport’s northwest is quite a big military base todays as it hosts Tennessee’s ANG 134th Air Refueling Group, with its KC135 as well as three various Army squadrons. Thereby the airport regularly gets visits by US military aircraft in addition to the based ones.
Futhermore, TYS is interesting due to some regular freight services like FX or UPS A300 which park up in the north. The south and east of the airport is the civil part with several General Aviation/Business traffic facilities in addition to a maintenance hangar in the south (visited by World Atlantic Airlines MD83 e.g.). The regular passenger service at TYS in the meantime is standard. Except some United Express/Delta Connection/American connections to hubs like Denver or Houston, Atlanta or Charlotte and Chicago, the most exciting movements are Allegiant’s A320s. TYS handled roughly 2,2 million passenger back in 2018.
When weather is bad in ATL or CLT, the super heavies will divert here, A380 air france in summer 2021, AA787 A777, will park many of the International Airlines. Flights won’t disembark because of immigration which TYS is not set up for. They will however rest till the weather is better to fly to the final destination.
Written by Severin Hackenberger in cooperation with Yixin Chen. Last Update: 2019
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| (4 votes, average: 4.25 out of 5)
|05R/23L||2743m / 9000ft|
|05L/23R||1830m / 6003ft|
|T1||There is only one passenger terminal handling all activities.|
|Ladder||Not needed here and not recommended neither!|
|Car/Public Transport||Car definitely needed as public transport is quite poor here as the airport is not included in any public transport system.|
|Drinks/Food||Along Alcoa Hwy you will find various fast food restaurants as well as in the terminal itself. So no need to worry, you will not starve!|
|Hotels||Northeast of the terminal are some, but none of them is a special spotterhotel.|
|Season||Summer is warmer indeed, but allows the usage of TYS’ best spot – spot #1. So we recommend summer as it also allows to photograph the late evening cargo birds.|
|Security||Spotting is tolerated here but as TYS also hosts an active, military airbase, keep a low profile as always!|
|General Info||TYS has two runways to offer, however the northwestern is way quiter than the southeastern one.|
|05R/23L||Major runway, handling almost all traffic (cargo as well as military and passenger).|
|Spot #1 – Hillside – 23 Arrivals + low 05 Departures|
|WHERE||This spot is literally no exact position more just the hilly area located between Airbase Rd and Callahan Rd. In between these streets you will find a slightly elevated green area with some trees. From its southeastern side you will have a nice view onto the approach, though parking here directly is difficult.|
|WHAT||From here you can spot all 23 arrivals as well as low/heavy 05 departures.|
|TIME||Afternoon till sunset, rather in summer months.|
|MISC.||Heat haze can be an issue on hot days. The time window to take pictures may be a bit limited at some points due to other aircraft parked nearby or light poles around the cargo area.
Keep a low profile as the nearby cargo area and military facilities may get suspicious if guys hang around here with cameras. So only take out your camera once you actually need it. Nothing directly around like shops/restaurants.
A300 = 250mm / A320 = 320mm
|Spot #2 – Alcoa Hwy – 05L/R Arrivals|
|WHERE||This spot is no exact location more then the area along Alcoa Hwy aka US Highway 129. Regarding your favourite angle you can position yourself on any of the parking areas of the restaurants nearby. Keep in mind that the northern end (Exxon gas station) of this spot will only offer a quite step angle for the eastern runway, therefore at the southern end (Wendy’s) you may have haze as the aircraft are already very low there (or you cannot even see them anymore). In between, feel free to choose any parking of the shop, buy something inside and simply stay at your car.|
|WHAT||All aircraft landing on 05R/L. You CANNOT see the runway itself as it is a bit higher but at least the line ups for 05L.|
|TIME||From morning till early afternoon for the arrivals.|
|MISC.||All you need can be found along Alcoa Hwy with plenty fast food restaurants. Keep a low profile and only take out your camera once needed, not that passing drivers or other guests get suspicious if guys hang around here with cameras a lot and call authorities.|
160mm = C525 / KC135 = 100mm
|Spot #3 – Terminal – Passenger ramp + 05R/23L Movements|
|WHERE||This spot is located inside the passenger terminal (which is shaped like a Y) just in the middle of the two “arms”. Pass security check and then simply position yourself at the glass front – exact location marked on the map.|
|WHAT||This spot offers a nice view onto the ramp in front/around as well as nearby runway movements on runway 05R/23L.|
|TIME||Runway from morning till early afternoon. Ramp may vary once an aircraft turns.|
|MISC.||All facilities inside this finger like restrooms or foodshops. Keep in mind, that you need a VALID BOARDING PASS to reach this spot, which is located AFTER SECURITY CHECK, so it’s AIRSIDE.
Your view may be a bit disturbed at some points by other parked aircraft which can also produce haze. Be aware of that!
CRJ9 on runway = 160mm / CRJ2 on taxiway = 140mm
Spot itself looks like THIS – shots taken here like these:
When weather is bad in ATL or CLT, the super heavies will divert here, A380 air france in summer 2021, AA787 A777, will park many of the International Airline flights won’t disembark because of immigration which TYS is not set up for. They will however rest till the weather is better to fly to destination. I see these diversions all the time.
I’ve lived in Knoxville all my life and have flown in and out there and enjoyed my flights in and out of TYS.
I also got the opportunity to a flight out on air base and got to set in jump seat on take off and got to lay in boomer bay and watched while refuelling a F16! Most amazing experience of my life !