The gateway to California, Los Angeles International Airport, or just LAX, handeld almost 85 Mio. passengers in 2017 and is one of the top ten airports of the world in number of passengers. More than 13 mio people living within the Los Angeles Metropolitan Aera and almost every tourist who is going to visit the Western States of the USA will start his journey in Los Angeles. Thats why you will get a wide variety of airlines and many international carriers using heavy equipment at LAX.
Many US airlines using Los Angeles as hub or as a focus city, like Alaska Airlines, Delta, United, Southwest and American. Plane spotting is not very popular in the US, but LAX is one of the more famous places for this hobby. Most time, the wind is coming from the ocean, so the planes arriving from the city, while the departures heading to the ocean. The sun is shining almost any time of the year and the pacific ocean, with his large beaches, is just next to the airport. Furthermore there are many cargo flights taking place by carriers from all over the world like Qatar, Nippon, Korean, Lufthansa, Cargolux and many many more. FedEx and DHL operating a small hubs at LAX too.
Written by Julian Mittnacht, Jan Seba, Lennart Böttcher, Maximilian Kramer, Patrick Weis and Yixin Chen (last visit November 2018)
How was your spotting trip?
Rate this airport now.
(24 votes, average: 4.38 out of 5)
|Airport Information||Runways||06L/24R (north)||06R/24L (north)|
|2.720 m (8.925 ft)||3.135 (10.285)|
|07L/25R (south)||07R/25L (south)|
|3.685 (12.091 ft)||3.382 (11.096)|
|Terminals||Terminal 1||Terminal 2||Terminal 3|
|Southwest||Delta plus Connection, Virgin, WestJet and some SkyTeam members||Delta plus Connection and some mexican carriers|
|Terminal 4||Terminal 5||Terminal 6|
|American||American, AA Eagle and all other US carriers||Alaska, Air Canada and some more|
|Terminal 7||Terminal 8||Tom Bradley Intl. Terminal|
|United plus Express||United plus Express||Almost all Intl. carriers|
|Spotting Information||Ladder||Not needed|
|Car||Needed for some locations but from the terminals all locations along Sepulveda Blvd. for 24 are easy to reach by foot.|
|Restrooms||All around the airport in the restaurants or hotel lobbies.|
|Drinks/Food||All around the airport|
|Hotels||There are plenty of hotels along the Century Blvd. You can walk from there to spots 2-5 & 7. To get a great deal, use the bidding tool of priceline.com.
The Embassy Suites are within the walking distance to the Imperial Hill.
|Season||There is no special season but its very hot in the summer and heat haze can be a problem at some positions. The light conditions are perfect from October until March as the sun is always in the south so you don´t have to switch positions.|
|Runway Usage||General Info||Usually the whole year the wind comes from the ocean so 24/25 are the active runway directions. There is something like a system at LAX but as usual there is never a guarantee. Flights with a northern route like from Europe or Asia prefer the northern runways. Flights from the south and cargo flights ,especially FedEx, use the southern ones.|
|06R/24L||The inner, longer northern runway is mainly in use for deparutres.|
|06L/24R||The outer northern runway is mainly in use for arrivals.|
|07R/25L||The outer southern runway is mainly in use for arrivals.|
|07L/25R||The inner, longer southern runway is mainly in use for departures.|
|Spot #1 – Imperial Hill – 07/25 movements|
|WHERE||It is not difficult to find because as it the name already says, this spot is located at the ‘Imperial Ave’ and LAX most popular spotting location. Always keep the ‘Sepulveda Blvd’ in mind, because this road connects almost every single spotting location with the airport. When you follow the Blvd from the airport and passed the tunnel, don’t make a right turn into the Imperial Hwy. You have to use the next street to turn right into the E Walnut Ave. Than take the next right into the California St. After two, small blocks you will see the Embassy Suites to your right hand side. Here you make a left turn into the ‘E Imperial Ave’. Now drive for 1 km, up the hill (the airport is to your right) until you see a small park area, with some benches and a big US Flag on your right. Just park your car along the road. There you are!
By Public Transport: Take local transit to get to LAX City Bus Center and take there “Beach Cities Transit bus 109” which runs 7 days a week to Imperial Hill. From LAX terminals, take bus shuttle to parking Lot C which is next to LAX City Bus Center and then take the bus 109 to Imperial Hill. You can also take above bus from Metro Green Line Aviation Station.
|WHAT||This spot is famous for the rotating plane pictures. You see all movements from 07L/R and 25L/R. You will miss some 25L arrivals, as the planes exit the runway earlier. But all 25R departures will be on your camera chip. If 06L/R is in use, you will not miss a single plane that use the southern runways. Also taxiway Bravo and Charlie will be in your sight.|
|TIME||Great spot for the whole day. Only in the evening you will get backlit pictures.|
|MISC.||Restrooms are pretty close in the Embassy Suites. Don’t hesitate to get in there! Restaurant and supermarket are a little bit more far aways. There are enough benches to relax.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||200-400 mm|
|Spot #2 – Proud Bird Restaurant – 25R arrivals|
|WHERE||Its pretty close to the airport hotels and is allong the Aviation Blvd. Use the Century Blvd until you can make a right turn into the Aviation Blvd. The street is running parallel to the Sepulveda Blvd. Its on the left side and you won´t miss it as there are many aircrafts displayed around the Proud Bird Restaurant. There is a terrace facing northwards with a great view.
You can also photograph from the parking of the restaurant if you don´t wanna go inside. Stay on the east side of their event center where the delivery zone is. Usually its a very empty lot and you should be fine if you stay there. Alternative is to go to #8.
|WHAT||Its along the approach path of 25R and you don´t miss a single plane here.|
|TIME||Great spot for the whole day. Only in the evening you get backlit pictures.|
|MISC.||You get everything what you need in and around the restaurant.
For more photos from the restaurant check this link.
|Spot #3 – Joe´s Car Park/Quick car parking – 24R arrivals|
|WHERE||There are two parking garages along the W98th and corner of Vicksburg Ave. If you stay in one of the plenty hotels at the century blvd use one of these garages as they are much cheaper than to park on the hotel property. Just use the elevator to get on the top level. Free shuttle busses running from the terminals to the parking lots, rental stations and hotels.|
|WHAT||As you are on a higher level than standing on the ground you can make great side shots of aircrafts arriving on 24R. Almost all heavies arrive here, especially those from Europe and Asia. During beautiful winter days you can even have the snow covered mountains as a background.|
|TIME||Great spot for the whole day. Only in the evening you get backlit pictures. It can get pretty hot here on the roof so if, use a lower level.|
|MISC.||Restrooms are inside the hotels and in one of the many fast food restaurants around the area.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||150-400 mm. Quick Car Parking is a little bit closer than the Joe´s Car Park so you need less focal length.|
Pictures from the “Joe´s Car Park” Garage
|Spot #4 – In-N Out Burger – 24R arrivals|
|WHERE||Another very popular spotting location in L.A.. Just follow the Sepulveda Boulevard northwards for appr. one kilometer and you will see on the left hand side the fast food restaurant and a tiny park area. You can park your car here along the street. You can also walk from the terminals for around 15 minutes, as its pretty close and very easy to find.|
|WHAT||This location is not the best for photography as you have backlit almost the whole day. Furthermore you are almost under the aircrafts and belly shots is what you will get. Its just a nice stop if you get hungry and wanna try a tasteful burger while watching the planes arriving. If you wanna make more sideview shots, go to spot 5.|
|TIME||Its only good in the evening, especially in the summer. Sun is pretty low in the winter!|
|MISC.||restrooms are in the In-N Out Burger.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||20-150 mm|
|Spot #5 – CVS Parking Lot – 24R arrivals|
|WHERE?||when you passed the In-N Out Burger, follow the road only for a couple of meters until you can make a left turn into the W 89 Street where the CVS Pharmacy is located. There are parking lots on the roof of the store, so just use the ramp to get ontop. This is your place to be! Stay next to your car because parking is only allowed for customers. You can easily walk to this position from the terminals.|
|WHAT||you are a little bit higher here and more distant to the aircrafts as on spot #4.|
|TIME||its only good in the evening, especially in the summer. Sun is pretty low in the winter!|
|MISC.||restrooms are in the In-N Out Burger. Supermarket just next to you.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||200-400 mm|
|Spot #6 – Westchester Parkway – 24L departures/24R arrivals|
|WHERE||There are many ways to get to this place so please use google maps to find your way. You need to get on the Lincoln Blvd. and then turn into the W 94th Street. The street where you can park your car is parrallel to the Westchester Parkway next to some appartement buildings. From here follow the small footpath to get on the Westchester Parkway. Just cross the street and you will be there.|
|WHAT||You get some very amazing sunset, evening shots from 24R arrivang aircrafts, as well as 24L departures with the airport as a background, here. Because of the many lightpoles along the road infront of you its a little bit difficult to find the best moment releasing the shutter.|
|TIME||Its only recommend in the evening, especially in the summer. Sun is already too low in the winter!|
|MISC.||The police patrols the roads around the airport frequently. So the risk of beeing stopped is pretty high. But don´t be afraid. Usually the officers are very friendly and know what you are doing. They just control your ID and then keep you going.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||200-400 mm|
|Spot #7 – Parking Lot C / Bridge – 24R Arrivals|
|WHERE||There are two opportunities where you can stay. By car the best way to get here is use the West Century Blvd. From here there are multiple way to get to the W 96th street on which the entrance to the parking lot is located. It is recommended to enter by car and to pay the fee ($12 by latest information), so that you can spot directly from the car and not have any trouble with authorities and security.
Otherwise you can stay on the bridge connecting W 96th Street with the airport. There runs a free shuttle bus from the terminals to the Parking Lot C and you can even walk from the terminal (approximate 800 meters). There are stairways connecting Sepulveda Blvd/W96th and the bridge.
|WHAT||This spot is an alternative to Spot #3 for 24R arrivals. It is closer to the runway, so you dont need as much focal length. A disadvantage is, that you might have trouble with some lamp posts. But you should be able to find a good location in the parking lot so that they dont disturb your picture. Otherwise you might need to stamp them for some of the heavies (narrowbodies should never be a problem).
You can also stay on the bridge where you have no disturbing objects in your way and you are even more flexible when it comes to the perspective. From there you can also see the line up for 24L. Taking pictures is difficult due to the fence and light poles. Only small aircraft like a Dash8-Q400 is possible (see sample).
|TIME||In the winter, this is a great spot for the entire day. In the summer you will get backlit pictures in the evening. It might get very hot on the bridge, especially in the noon, and the only chance to protect yourself is to go down the staircase and stay under the bridge.|
|MISC.||You might be approached by the police at this location, because it is not as well known as the others by the officials. In my case they were fine with me spotting here, because I paid for the parking anyway. At the bridge you cause attention to the authorities!|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70 – 200 mm (B777 is at 85mm, B738 is at 150mm)|
Pictures taken from the bridge:
|Spot #8 – W 111th Street – 25L arrivals|
|WHERE||Near the Proud Bird Restaurant, just drive along the Aviation Blvd and turn into the W 111th Street. After 350m (1150ft) you will see a small turning basin for busses on your left. Even if this turning basin is declared to be a towing zone, you can park your car here – I have never seen a bus using it and nevertheless, you can stand in close proximity to your car at this position.
A ladder is not required at this location
|WHAT||This spot is am alternative for the Proud Bird Restaurant. You get most of the American domestic traffic (United, American, Delta) here and usually, the heavies from Oceania will use runway 25L for landing.|
|TIME||In the winter, this is a great spot for the entire day. In the summer you will get backlit pictures in the evening.|
|MISC.||No restrooms nearby. The chance that you are approached by the authorities or self-appointed “airport-protectors” is very high at this spot. But as long as you stand outside the parking-lot, they will not stop you from taking pictures. Keep in mind: do not enter the parking lot – even if the area near the spot seems to be closed, it still belongs to the airport!|
|FOCAL LENGTH||90 – 260 mm (737-800 – 170 mm)|
|Spot #9 – H Hotel Los Angeles, Curio Collection by Hilton – 24L/R arrivals|
|WHERE||This spotting location is on the rooftop of the H Hotel Los Angeles (formerly Howewood Suites). It is accessible only for hotel guests! The address is 6151 West Century Blvd., Los Angeles, California, 90045, USA. There is a glass barrier around the bar with an approximate height of 1,50-1,60 meters.|
|WHAT||From here you can catch most of the international heavies on final to 24L/R. On a clear day you have the hollywood hills on the background.|
|TIME||Good from around 9am until late afternoon.|
|MISC.||Since you have to book an overnight stay at the hotel to be permitted to visit the rooftop (bar), you obviously have access to all required amenities. There’s an additional fee for parking!|
|Spot #10 – AT&T Entertainment Group Parking Lot – 25L/R movements|
|WHERE||This location is on the 10th floor of the AT&T Entertainment group parking lot. It is on DirecTV Way, El Segundo. From LAX, follow the Imperial Hwy and make a right turn into DirecTV Way, the entrance of the parking lot is on your left (not the one on your right!) after the first stop sign. The first 2 floors are staff parking lot for AT&T, while floors above are visitor parking. Drive all the way up to 10th floor and face north, you’ll get a great view of the entrance of RWY 25L and 25L. The parking rate is 1.5USD for 15 mins, but has a maximum of 12USD per day.|
|WHAT||All landings on 25L, as well as taxis near the cargo ramp. In early morning and late evening, planes taking off from 25R are also possible without heat haze. One tricky thing is that you can’t see the approaching plane until they are about to land due to the limited angle blocked by the two buildings in front of you. One solution is to look at the reflections on the building on your right. Once you see an airplane reflected on that building, get ready to catch it.|
|TIME||Great spot for the whole day in winter. Only in summer evenings you will get backlit pictures.|
|MISC.||There’s a Starbucks (with restrooms) within walking distance, locating three blocks south of the parking lot. Otherwise you’ll need to drive to other restaurants within LAX area and pay for the parking fees again when you come back.|
|Spot #11 – 6R Arrivals Dockweiler Park|
|WHERE||This spotting location is located in the Dockweiler park. Enter the park at the official entrance from Vista Del Mar and drive up till the marked parking lot. Fee is 2,50USD during the winter but can be higher during the summer (and more crowded).|
|WHAT||From here you can catch all arrivals for runway 06R.|
|TIME||Good from around 8am until 3pm.|
|MISC.||Toilets and showers are availible at many placces in the park.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||200-400mm depends on how far you wak up the beach|
+++ Visit the Star Helicopters website if you are interested in doing air to ground photos from LAX +++