JFK Spot 1
New York John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK/KJFK) – commonly referred to as JFK, which is one of the world’s most renowned IATA airport codes – is the largest and busiest airport in the New York City metropolitan area and along the East Coast. Despite its popularity and despite being a major hub for American Airlines, Delta and JetBlue it only handled close to 62 million passengers, which ranks the airport far behind the national air traffic powerhouses ATL, ORD and LAX. This is mainly because a lot of domestic and some international traffic is absorbed by its local competitors LaGuardia (LGA) and Newark (EWR) respectively. However, it probably outscores every airport in the country when it comes to variety of international traffic as it sees a vast number of airlines from all around the globe, including most flag carriers. For instance, Qantas currently offers a flight from Brisbane (BNE) to Los Angeles (LAX), which continues to JFK.
As the airport is located adjacent to the waters of Jamaica Bay and as traffic around the airport is usually very heavy, commuting between the spotting locations can be cumbersome and time-consuming. Due to its location right at the Atlantic coast of Long Island it is prone to sudden changes of the wind direction, so a runway switch is not unusual.
Photo Permit: If you plan to spot from one of the airport’s parking garages (spot #10 only!) a photo permit is required! There’s a good chance that you will be checked by security staff and that you will be requested to show your permit. The permit can be requested from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey via email (send us a note to firstname.lastname@example.org, we will then provide you with the contact details as we decided to not publish them). When you submit your request to the Port Authority make sure to provide your full name, date of birth, cell phone number, the locations where you wish to spot (rooftop of parking garages) and the date and time of your intended visit and the locations. If you are not sure or want to visit on more than one day, then provide all desired dates and times. Also the request needs to be submitted no later than 48 hours prior to your intended spotting date. If approved, the response email is your permit. Print it out and always carry it with you along with a valid ID.
Written by Marlin Lehmann, Daniel Curtis, Nicola von Moos, Severin Hackenberger and Thomas Okaty/ Last Update: May 2019
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|General Info||JFK Airport has 6 Terminals. Terminal numbers 3 and 6 do not exist. Terminal 3 was demolished in 2014 and is now used for aircraft parking of Delta Air Lines jets. Terminal 6 closed in 2006, also making space for aircraft parking of JetBlue planes and the expansion of Terminal 5.|
Check airlines and their terminals at panynj.
|Terminal 1||Mainly used by European and Asian airlines. Along with Terminal 4 the only terminals capable to handle A380 flights, therefore hosting Lufthansa, Air France and Korean Air.|
|Terminal 2||Terminal 2 is home to Delta Air Lines exclusively, however, only domestic flights are handled here (Delta’s international departures as well as a handful of domestic flights are operated from Terminal 4).|
|Terminal 4||Mainly used by international carriers and Delta Air Lines (international flights). T4 also has A380 dedicated gates, hence Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Asiana and Etihad Airways use this terminal.|
|Terminal 5||Owned by JetBlue, used by JetBlue, Hawaiian Airlines and Aer Lingus. This terminal mainly handles domestic flights (except Aer Lingus due to the US Border Preclearance already taking place in Ireland) and Caribbean flights which sometimes are under special surveillance.|
All flights depart from this terminal, but there is a special handling of arrivals: between 5am and 10pm all international flights park and disembark at Terminal 5. Between 10pm and 5am, all international arrivals park and disembark at Terminal 4 (resp. so-called T5i, a special section in T4).
|Terminal 7||Fully owned by British Airways being the first and single Terminal on US-soil which is not owned by a US-carrier. Selected Oneworld partners also board here including Iberia, Qantas and Cathay Pacific. Also some Star Alliance partners as ANA and Air Canada and non-alliance partners Icelandair, Ukraine International and Aerolíneas Argentinas operate flights from here.|
|Terminal 8||Owned by American Airlines. Some Oneworld partners also use this terminal, including LATAM, Finnair, Qatar Airways and Royal Jordanian Airlines.|
|Ladder||Not needed at the spots below|
|Car/Public Transport||Advisable, however all spots can be reached by local public transport.|
|Restrooms||In every publicly accessable building like restaurants or hotels and inside of the terminal building.|
|Drinks/Food||There are aplenty of restaurants, shops and food courts nearby the airport, offering supply of food and drinks. Check the particular MISC box at each spot for detailed info.|
|Hotels||The new open TWA hotel is the best choice to get as close to the action as poosible. More infos can you find here.|
There are lots of more hotels close to the airport as well as in in the further airport’s area and neighbouring towns. Some of them do offer a view onto the approaching aircraft.
|Season||The traffic at New York JFK does not show any significant changes during the year except a slight increase of passenger and traffic volume in summer months. Winters in New York City can be tremendously cold and icy.|
|Security||Spotting in the United States is not always tolerated. There have been several reports from fellow spotters that they were checked by police. Especially in the NY area, police is very present. Please be also aware, that the police is quite strict in terms of road safety. If you are standing roadside to take photos, police may ask you to leave as you can be considered a distraction for motorists. Some police officers may react rude to our hobby as they suspect terrorism when photos of airplanes are taken, especially in the NY area. Always remain calm and polite and stay in your car when a police officer has stopped you to check on you. Do not leave your car unless you are told to do so! The spots described in this guide are believed to be safe but check the MISC box for further info. Spotterguide.net is not liable for any misbehavior towards the police.|
|General Info||The runway usage mainly depends on the wind direction. As mentioned in the introduction, it is not unusual that runways get switched suddenly and sometimes several times a day. The good thing is, that JFK’s four runways are set up in two parallel systems, and for each parallel system the type of usage is fairly standard and predictable. The approach and takeoff patterns are set up for the usage of only parallel runways, and usually only parallel runways are active. Also, the proximity of LGA limits the variety of approach and takeoff procedures.|
|04L||When 04L/04R are active, runway 04L is mainly used for departures. During peaks it’s also used for arrivals. Takeoffs and landings can happen simultaneously.|
|04R||When 04L/04R are active, runway 04R is mainly used for arrivals. In rare cases it is also used for takeoffs. Takeoffs and landings can happen simultaneously. Traffic approaching from the North and West will fly across Long Island north of the airport and then make a turn over the ocean to line up for final approach.|
|22L||When 22L/22R are active, runway 22L is mainly used for arrivals. In rare cases it is also used for takeoffs. Takeoffs and landings can happen simultaneously. Traffic approaching from East and Northeast will come along the southern coast of Long Island and then cut back towards the northern side where it then will make a 180 degree turn to line up for final approach. Traffic from the North and West will come across Brooklyn/Staten Island/Lower Bay and pass the airport on the southside over the ocean before circling back towards Long Island to merge with all other approaching traffic.|
|22R||When 22L/22R are active, runway 22R is mainly used for departures. During peaks it’s also used for arrivals. Takeoffs and landings can happen simultaneously.|
|13L||Note: 13L/31R is currently closed for construction and is scheduled to be reopened at the end of 2019! |
|13R||When 13L/13R are active, runway 13R is mainly used for departures. Occasionally it is also used for arrivals.|
|31L||When 31L/31R are active, runway 31L is mainly used for departures. Departing traffic will perform the so-called Canarsie Climb and Breezy Point Climb procedures, both are sharp left turns shortly after takeoff. Traffic on the Canarsie Climb will make for those well known banking shots. During peaks this runway is also used for arrivals (especially Delta as the Delta terminals are adjacent to 13L). In any case all A380s will land here.|
|31R||Note: 13L/31R is currently closed for construction and is scheduled to be reopened at the end of 2019! |
|Spot #1 – Next to the Taxi Holding Area at Cargo Plaza|
|WHERE||There is a Taxi Holding Area for all NY Taxis in JFK’s Cargo City. Its location is difficult of explanation so please check the map above for its exact location. When you use Nassau Expy, use exit 2S, and follow signs ‘JFK Expressway and Kennedy Airport’. Once you have merged with JFK Expy leave it at the first exit again (0.1 miles after merging) so keep right when you enter JFK Expy. Once you have exited JFK Expy, turn left onto 148th St.|
After 340 feet, turn right into Center Cargo Rd and then right again at the end of the street. You can already see the parking space next to the Taxi Holding Area to your right. You can park immediately on site.
|WHAT||Landing aircraft into 13L only. When you move forward to the northern end of the parking lot, you can see aircraft banking sharply.|
|TIME||The light is lovely from mid-day/afternoon until sunset.|
|MISC.||Parking is allowed here but make sure that you keep a low profile and check the red warning box above. There is a meadow next to the parking lot but we advise you not to enter it as there is a radar box of the FAA on it. Warning signs warn you to enter this fenced area with the box telling you that unautorized access will may be punished by.|
Furthermore, police may react rude as you could distract the drivers attention.
|FOCAL LENGTH||Photography with a 70-300mm lens is absolutely enough here. Option 1: Boeing 747 Qantas: 35 mm; Boeing 737-900ER Delta: 70mm; China Airlines Boeing 777: 35mm|
Option 2: Airbus A320: 85mm; Boeing 737-800: 85mm; Boeing 757-200: 80mm
|Spot #2 – AVIS Car Rental|
|WHERE||Spot 2 is located at or near (choose what you like better) the AVIS Car Rental which is located at Federal Circle near JFK’s Terminal 8. When you disembark at Federal Circle just follow signs for Car Rentals and AVIS and place yourself somewhere at the AVIS car park.|
We advise you to travel here by AirTrain or bus, as parking nearby the AVIS property is rather difficult. You might be lucky and get one.If you don’t want to travel by PT, you can also spot nearby the AVIS property and park you vehicle a few yards away. Spotting in this area should be the same, furthermore not all aircraft bank the same way so you’ll find suitable positions anywhere around.
|WHAT||Arriving aircraft into runway 13L only.|
|TIME||Photography of airplanes with lovelvy light is possible from early afternoon until the sun sets.|
|MISC.||You can also travel here by public transport. If travelling from NY City, take the subways to a JFK AirTrain station (either Jamaica or Howard Beach/Lefferts Blvd) and disembark the train at Federal Circle (Car Rentals). Travelling from Lefferts Blvd and onwards in direction the airport is free of charge. If you travel from stations beyond Lefferts Blvd direction Howard Beach or Jamaica, a $5 charge applies. Spotting from AVIS is the closest from the station when you go there by PT.|
It is safe to spot here as long as you behave. You can take cover from the roofage of AVIS in case of rain. There is nothing nearby. If you want to buy food or drinks, take the free AirTrain to one of the terminals where aplenty of shops and restaurants are available. Terminal 8 offers a very small shop only. Please note that the AirTrain stops at every terminal so it will take you at least 10mins to get back to Federal Circle when you embark at T1 e.g.
|FOCAL LENGTH||70-300mm is absolutely enough. Boeing 777-300ER 110mm; Airbus A320: 170mm; Embraer 170: 200mm|
|Spot #3 – Brookville Park|
|WHERE||Brookville Park is located in South Queens, being one of the largest parks in the area. There are aplenty of opportunities to take photos from Brookville Park.|
You can also travel here by public transport.
|WHAT||Arriving airplanes into runway 22L only.|
|TIME||Spotting from here is advisable from the early afternoon until the sun sets. This refers to summer months.|
|MISC.||There is a bench right at this position were you can make yourself comfortable. You can also walk down the park for different angles. There also lots of activities you can do here ranging from soccer to basketball, jogging or tennis. There are shops nearby the park and possibly some smaller stands offering Hot Dogs or somewhat right in the park.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||A 70-300mm lens is totally appropriated for this spot. Boeing 787: 95mm; Boeing 737-800: 145mm; A380: 70mm; Boeing 777 from the front: 100mm; Boeing 757: 110mm|
|Spot #4 – 230 Pl/149 Ave|
|WHERE||There is a lovely spot for arriving aircraft aiming for 22L in at 230 Pl / 149 Ave. Check the map or Google Maps to get the directions to travel. The spot is located in Brooksville, South Queens on a mound and soccer field next to a school. You can also travel here by public transport|
|WHAT||Arrivals into runway 22L and 22R. When runway 04R is open to departures, which won’t happen until end of September, heavy aircraft can probably also be shot from here.|
|TIME||Spotting from here is advisable from the afternoon to sunset for 22L and in the morning for 22R.|
|MISC.||As you move around in a public area, behave and keep your lens fixed to airplanes only. There is nothing nearby. You should bring along everything what you may need for the time being there. Some smaller shops are nearby some few blocks away. You should absolutely be ok to park you vehicle (if you have one) to the side of the street.|
Its possible that the school security send you away from the ground.
|FOCAL LENGTH||22L-arriving airplanes can be shot with a 70-400mm-lens: Boeing 747-8: 100mm; Boeing 757: 140mm; Airbus A340-600: 95mm; Boeing 787 Dreamliner: 110mm; Air France Boeing 777-200: 280mmm|
|Spot#5 – Rockaway Blvd – 22L Arrivals and 4L Departures|
|WHERE||This spot is the sidewalk along Rockaway Blvd. Park at the Holiday Inn mentioned in Spot 4, turn left, and walk along the road on the sidewalk. The distance you walk is determined by how close you want to be and whether you’re shooting arrivals or departures. It’s about 2/3 of a mile to 22L, and about 1 mile to 4L.|
|WHAT||Arrivals on 22L and 4L departures are visible from the road. The streetlights along the road can get in the way of 22L arrivals. You can take anything from side on shots to head on shots to belly shots. The landing lights are also easily accessible along the road.|
|TIME||Good all day if you place yourself on the correct sides of the plane (the afternoon yields a further walk).|
|MISC.||This spot is not very glamorous. Rockaway Blvd is an extremely busy road, and there is a lot of trash and overgrown bushes along the sidewalk. Nothing here, so bring everything you need. Since this location is adjacent to a swampy nature preserve you might be dealing with bugs and mosquitos, so consider bringing bug spray.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Focal length depends on how far away you stand – anything from 25mm to 300mm.|
|Spot#6 – North Woodmere Park – 22L and 31R arrivalss|
|WHERE||This is a large public park. Get off the Belt Parkway at exit 24A and turn right on Francis Lewis Blvd. Follow the road (it turns into Rosedale Ave) until you reach Hungry Harbor Road, and make a right. The park is located right before a sharp bend in the road. There’s a big sign at the entrance, so it’s hard to miss. Entrance into to park is $10 if you don’t live in Nassau Country between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and free the rest of the year. Find a parking spot in the shade. For 31R arrivals, stand near the bathrooms near the parking lot. For 22L arrivals, Turn right at the 31R bathrooms and walk all the way to the end. There will be an old building with a grassy area behind it.|
|WHAT||A nice spot for 31R arrivals, although a bit far away (see Swiss A330). This is the best spot for 22L arrivals, with the only problem being heat haze during the hot months.|
|TIME||31R arrivals only good in the summer ~10am, and 22L arrivals are good from sunrise until about 1:30pm|
|MISC.||Heat haze is the biggest issue at this spot. Some joggers will be curious of what you are doing, so just be friendly. This spot gets very buggy in the spring and summer.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||A 400mm lens will suffice for 31R arrivals. No more than 250mm for 22L|
|Spot#7 – Holiday Inn – 31R arrivals|
|WHERE||This spot is across the road from a Holiday Inn, off the same road as Panera Bread. On Rockaway Blvd, there is a major intersection, and the Holiday Inn is on the right heading south or on the left heading north. Park across the street from the hotel near the fence.|
|WHAT||All 31R arrivals are visible from here. When there are westerly winds, the occasional plane will land on 31L – these planes are visible, but it’s very far away and tough to get a good shot. You cannot hear or see the planes coming, and appear very quickly. There are power lines and a tree that potentially get in the way. Planes move left to right.|
|TIME||Good from sunrise until ~10:00am in the summer.|
|MISC.||There is not much here, so bring what you need. There is a restaurant further down the road on the water. Stay near your car and there shouldn’t be any problems with security.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||175mm for a B752, 130mm for an A345, 235mm for an E190|
|Spot #8 – Parking Lot – 31R Arrivals|
|WHERE||This spot is located in an quite unused parking area next to the “Nassau Expressway”. It can be entered quite easily from the “Bay Blvd”, but also from the Costco parking lot, as it’s connected to this one. Just search your favourite position inside the parking area here, which depends on the powerlines above and the position of sun glare on the airplanes.|
|WHAT||Arrivals onto runway 31R.|
|TIME||Good from early midday until sunset.|
|MISC.||Heat haze might be a problem here on hot days. All you need can be found in the nearby stores/restaurants/cafes.|
Some people might look kind of suspicious as they don’t know what you’re doing here, so always smile and greet. It might be the best, to stay in your car until the aircraft is quite near, so you keep a low profile! Never had security problems here, but always have an ID with you, if the possible should pay you a visit.
Why to prefer this spot to #12?
B748 = 180mm / A333 = 210mm / B738 = 265mm / ERJ140 = ~335mm
|Spot #9 – Howard Beach/Frank M Charles Park – 13R Arrivals or 31L Departures|
|WHERE||There are two options to place yourself:|
A: Charles Memorial Park – This is a public park and the best spot is down on the beach. How to get there by car: Get off of Belt Parkway at exit 17N (travelling west) and take the first left. All of the streets leading to the park are one way. When you reach the ‘do not enter’, make a left onto 155th ave, then a right onto 99th st, a right onto 157th ave, and finally, a left onto 98th st. This takes you all the way down to the park (keep driving until the end). There is a good amount of parking. Get out of the car, go straight ahead into the park, then turn left.
B: Cross Bay Bridge Parking Lot – Best for breezy point climb shots. Exit Belt Park to Cross Bay Blvd. keep following and cross the bridge. After the bridge take the first left into the parking lot.
By public transport: When coming from the airport, then you can embark the AirTrain at all stops. Important: The AirTrain is free of charge until Lefferts Blvd station. From Lefferts Blvd to Howard Beach there is a charge (approx. $5). Note: Make sure to embark trains to Howard Beach and not Jamaica. Jamaica-bound trains go a different way than Howard Beach-bound trains.
|WHAT||From here you can get the well known banking shots: Location B for traffic performing the Breezy Point climb procedure (traffic will perform a left bank shortly after takeoff) or the Canarsie climb procedure (straight climb first and then performing a sharp left bank), and location A only for Canarsie climbs (slightly closer, but at a different angle).|
Arrivals on 13R are EXTREMELY rare, as it is typically used as a departure runway. In a lucky case, the typical situation will be reversed, and the planes will depart on 13L and land on 13R.
|TIME||This spot is great any time after mid morning (~ 10:00)|
|MISC.||DO NOT go past the edge of the beach on the north side, as it turns into private property. There’s nothing here, so bring everything you need. There is lots of shade under the trees and benches if you get tired. Lots of families come here, and some may give you looks or ask what you’re doing. Just be friendly and there won’t be any problems.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||For 31L departures, the planes come into view very far away and get close enough that widebodies only need about 160mm, narrowbodies about 200mm. For 13R arrivals, 300mm for an A320, 200mm for an A330, 160mm for an A380. From the spot south of the bridge you will need at least 300mm for widebodies.|
A: Charles Memorial Park
B: Cross Bay Bridge Parking
|Spot#10 – Terminal 5 Parking Garage – Movements on 13L/31R and 04L/22R, adjacent Taxiways, and Gates at T7, T5, and T4|
|WHERE||This spot is located on the top deck of the Terminal 5 parking garage. Follow the JFK Expressway or Van Wyck Expressway into the airport, then follow the signs for Terminal 5 parking. Drive all the way to the top. Alternatively, take the AirTrain to Terminal 5, follow the signs for the parking garage and go all the way up the stairs. ATTENTION: You need a photo permit to be cleared to spot and take photos from here! Please see instructions in the introduction at the top for more details!|
|WHAT||On the north side of the rooftop the gates at T7 and T5, as well as movements on runway 31R/13L and the parallel taxiways are visible. The east side of the garage offers views of gates at T5 and T4, runway 22R/4L, runway 22L/4R in the distance (heat haze!) and taxiways.|
|TIME||This spot is good all day, just use the side of the garage that the light is best for.|
|MISC.||Photo permit required! Please see instructions in the introduction at the top for more details! Drinks and Restrooms can be found in Terminal 5 (JetBlue Terminal), however, food options are very limited, hence either get something before you head to the airport or take the AirTrain to one of the other terminals.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Depends on what you want to see. Planes at gates can require as little as 100mm. Planes on 31R/13L require between 200mm and 300mm.|
|Spot #11 – AirTrain Ride|
|WHERE||We can recommend to at least once use the AirTrain for some photographs out of the train along the carriageway of JFK’s AirTrain. When you want to do so, you can embark the AirTrain at several stops. Important: The AirTrain begins to be free at Lefferts Blvd. If you embark already at Jamaica, Howard Beach, fees of $5 will apply. Make sure you take the train from a free station. These are the stations free to use:|
Lefferts Blvd, Federal Circle, Terminal 1, Terminal 2, Terminal 4, Terminal 5, Terminal 7, Terminal 8, Federal Circle, Lefferts Blvd.
Note: These trains go roundtrip. This means the carriageway at JFK is a loop – trains never terminate. If you are standing at a platform towards JFK, do not wonder if the destination of the train is Howard Beach or Jamaica. The trains will make this above mentioned loop and will then continue onto Howard Beach or Jamaica. You don’t need any tickets.
|WHAT||All movements of the airport (limited at some parts however). You can take pictures of parking aircraft, landing aircraft, taxiing planes or whatever. It offers a great view and is a ride worth.|
|TIME||If you want to perfectly photograph planes at Terminal 4, 5, and 7 you should grab a train in the afternoon. Planes at Terminal 8 are best to be photographed in the evening. For spotting planes parked at Terminal 1 and 2, travelling in the morning hours should be fine. This refers to summer months.|
|MISC.||Remember: Some stations are not free to travel. Check the ‘WHERE’ box above from which station it is free of charge to embark the AirTrain.|
The glasses of the carriages are very very lightely tinted. Not too much to demolish you photograph.
The New York MTA cards are NOT valid for an AirTrain journey if you embark at a station beyond Lefferts Blvd. If you want to aviod this $5 charge, use the E/J line to Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike or 121st (J-trains). From here, catch up the Q10/Q10 Ltd bus to JFK Airport and dismount at Lefferts Blvd. Using the AirTrain from here is free.
|FOCAL LENGTH||Very dependend from your shot, this is the focal lenght which was used for the pictures below: American Boeing 767 at AA Maintenance: 80mm; A321 American Airlines 170mm; British Airways Boeing 747400: 85mm, Airbus A318 British Airways: 85mm; Virgin Atlantic A340: 120mm; Caribbean Boeing 737-800: 85mm|
|Spot #12 – Costco – 31R Arrivals|
|WHERE||The parking lot next to a Costco Wholesale. Look for the sign on Rockaway Turnpike – it’s on the right if you’re heading south, or on the left if you’re heading north. Choose a parking spot and you’re good to go. Its 100 meters northwards of spot #8. The important thing here is, that the focal length does not need to be as high as at Panera Bread (#8). Furthermore, less heat haze in the summer months. Disadvantage is the angle which is better at #8|
|WHAT||The only thing you can see here are 31R arrivals.|
|TIME||Good from around noon until sunset.|
|MISC.||There is a Costco at the location, who has got everything you need. People might asking what you’re doing. The time I’ve been there, no police.|
Why to prefer this spot to #8?
CRJ9 = 230mm / B757 = 190mm
|Spot #13 – Bayswater Point State Park – 04R/L Arrivals + 13R Departures + 31L Arrivals|
|WHERE||This spot is located inside the Bayswater Point State Park, which can be entered thru a gate located at the end of “Mott Avenue”. Just park your car by the roadside in the nearby neighborhood, enter the park and search your favourite position along the waterfront.|
|WHAT||Arrivals onto runway 04R. You can also see 04L activities, but the distance is very high, so most of them aren’t spotable.|
It should be also possible to spot 31L Arrivals and 13R Departures, but we didn’t test those ones yet. 22R/L Departures should be too high already.
|TIME||Runway 04R/22L and 04L/22R: From sunrise till midday.|
Runway 13R/31L: In summer from early midday till sunset, in winter almost all day.
|MISC.||Heat haze can be a problem here. No facilities nearby, you’ll need a car to get to the next ones. In summer an insectspray is recommended as there are many insects flying around them and they might be dangerous.|
On rainy/wet days, the park can be very muddy, so take care of your clothes. On windy days, spotting here is very uncomfortable as there is almost no windprotection.
The park is opened from sunrise till sunset.
Sometimes the police passes by, but nobody had serious problems yet. But be prepared and take your ID with you (recommend in the whole US while spotting).
A380 = 165mm / B787 = 190mm / B738 = 270mm / ERJ135 = ~310mm