MCO Spot 1
Orlando – the gateway to every child’s dream: Walt Disney World. The city of Orlando is just a joy to explore with so many attractions to see so thus many visitors. All these vacationers probably make their way into Disneyland via Orlando International Airport, short: MCO. It is Florida’s second largest city by population being situated in Central-Florida. The airport is very busy, too, by handling more than 50 mio. passengers a year.
Orlando Airport was not always for commercial use. Until 1975, the airport, then named McCoy Air Force Base (this is where the codes MCO comes from) was primalarily used as an Army Air Field but closed in the late 70s following the end of the Vietnam War.
Ever since that year, Orlando Airport expanded tremendously and is now used by civil air traffic as well. There are also a lot European carriers which serve the city, being Lufthansa which saves a connection to Germany, British Airways which competes the busiest UK holiday carrier Virgin Atlantic also bringing looots of Britons into Florida. Also Emirates makes a reeeally long journey all the way from Dubai onboard a Boeing 777 jet. Icelandair and Norwegian Air Shuttle cover the north of Europe with sunny Florida holidays.
Written by Marlin Lehmann, Martin Rogosz and Bharat Lakshmanan, Adam Juriga for Spot7. Last update Aug 2021
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|Terminal A||Split in two concourses (Airside 1+2), gates 1-29 and 100-129 are located in Terminal A. The vast part of airlines using T A are from the Americas.|
|Airside 1||JetBlue, Azul, Aeroméxico, Avianca, COPA, Frontier, Silver Airways|
|Airside 2||Alaska and Southwest Airlines|
|Terminal B||Airside 3 and 4, mostly hosting major international airlines. Gates 30-59 and 70-99 are situated in T B.|
|Airside 3||American, Spirit, United|
|Airside 4||Delta, international carriers.|
|Ladder||Not needed at the spots below.|
|Car/Public Transport||Car is very advisable and necessary. No public transport to get around.|
|Drinks/Food||There are aplenty of restaurants, shops and food courts at the northside along HWY 436 of the terminals, offering supply of food and drinks.|
|Hotels||There is a Hyatt directly at the terminal and some rooms offering a balcony and a nice view of the action outside.
Furthermore there are lots of hotels along HWY 436. Some of them even offer a view onto the approaching aircraft.
|Season||The vast part of the MCO’s destinations are seasonally served only. However, the aircraft movements surprisingly keep rather steady as some airline operate into Orlando during summer season only but the others then operate Orlando during the winter, so for special airplanes is already being catered.|
|Security||Spotting in the United States is not always tolerated. There have been several reports from fellow spotters that police checks were performed. Also in Florida, police and airport security is present to iron out any potential terror activity. Our members have also been experiencing police checks by the Florida State Police or Airport Security. Spotting at some places is not tolerated. Please be also aware of following facts: The police is quite harsh of endangering the streets safety. If you are standing beside a street and you are visible to drivers, police may ask you to leave as you may distract drivers from keeping their attention onto the road traffic. Some police officers may react rude to our hobby as they suspect terrorism by photography of airplanes. Always stay polite and stay in car when a police officer stops for a check. Do not leave your car unless you are told to do so! The spots underneath are believed to be safe but check the MISC box for further info. We have summarized security experiences at each spot. Spotterguide.net is not liable for any inconvenience and misbehaviour towards the police of fellow spotters.|
|General Info||The runway usage at MCO is usually dependent from the wind. There are some procedures which apply as described below. However, MCO is a busy airport with leads into short-term changes made by ATC due to traffic density.
The runway usage system at Orlando is very difficult to understand. We have learned some fact and procedures which we brought together:
|17L||Arrival runway – Azul flights usually land here. It is a 99,9% chance that it will land on 17L/35R. Exceptation: Delayed flight. Despite the short runway, most of the widebody jets arrive here, including Virgin 747s, Emirates 77Ls… (this is not a rule, VS, BA, LH, EK, etc. sometimes use other runways as well but it is a 95% chance)|
|35R||Arrival runway – Azul flights usually land here. It is a 99,9% chance that it will land on 17L/35R. Exceptation: Delayed flight. Runway 35R operations are more likely due to strong winds which rarely change direction. Despite the short runway, most of the widebody jets arrive here, including Virgin 747s, Emirates 77Ls (this is not a rule, VS, BA, LH, EK, etc. sometimes use other runways as well but it is a 95% chance)… 35R-landing operations are very common and usually the rule along with a 36L landing operation.|
|17R||Departure runway – Departures here only, arrivals into this runway are extremely rare. Heavy jets also take-off from here.|
|35L||Departure runway – Departures here only, arrivals into this runway are extremely rare. Airplanes usually bank left/right shortly after departure. Heavy jets also take-off from here.|
|18L||Departure runway – Heavy jets also take-off from here. United usually uses this runway because of the short taxi time from the Airsides. During peak-times on the arrival runways, some jets also use 18L for landing. Unfortunately, some United flights also land here during off-times because of shorter taxi-times as we have witnessed several times.|
|36R||Departure runway – Heavy jets also take-off from here. During peak-times on the arrival runways, some jets also use 36R for landing. Unfortunately, some United flights also land here during off-times because of shorter taxi-times as we have witnessed several times.|
|18R||Arrival runway – Departures from here are very rare, usually used for arrivals only, if any, as 36/35 operations are more likely due to constant winds.|
|36L||Arrival runway – epartures from here are very rare, usually used for arrivals only. 36L-landing operations are very common and usually the rule along with a 35R landing operation.|
|WHERE||Bear Rd is a street in the northwest of the airport area which runs next to runway 18R/36L. At the very northern tip of the street there is a small unused parking lot from where you can see airplanes quite beautifully. It is very difficult of explanation very this spot exactly is, so we ask you to check the map above for detailed info. However it is very easy to find. If you are travelling from the airport’s terminals, leave the airport via Jeff Fuqua Blvd and exit at the first exit. This is being marked with a brown sign ‘Cargo Road/Economy Parking/EXIT ONLY’. Take this exit and once you have vacated the highway, turn right onto Cargo Rd. Follow the street’s course to its end and turn right. Continue northbound on Bear Rd for about 0.4 miles until the unused area appears to your left. There is also a huge airplane parking space, so you actually can’t miss it when an aircraft is parked there as well.|
|WHAT||Some airplanes are parked right behind the fence over night or for a particular time offering you a great oppurtunity to take photographs of them. You can also see airplane departures from runway 35L. Some of the departed planes bank to the left immediately after lift-off.|
|TIME||The light is lovely from sunrise to mid-day.|
|MISC.||Parking is allowed here but make sure that you keep a low profile and check the red warning box above. This place is regularly being check by police and airport security, you must keep a low profile so that you can circumvent any checks. The officers may ask you to leave. Obey this instruction, otherwise you’ll get in massive troubles. The American Airlines Boeing 737 was shot from a place which is believed to be safe, however, the distance to the departing airplanes is greater. Spotters with 400mm lenses should be ok. The spot is not marked in the map above but it is situated exactly next to the B-52 Stratofortess plane.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Photography with a 70-300mm lens is absolutely enough here.|
|WHERE||Spot 2 is located at a small lay-by along Heintzelman Boulevard which overs a view onto different scenes of the airport. Heinzelman Boulevard is a long street running parallel between runway 35L and 35R enabling some photo possibilities along this road. Spot 2 is at about the half of both runways. You can either come from the south or from the north of the airport as there is a u-turn possibility directly at the spot where no crash barriers separate both lanes from each other.|
|WHAT||Arriving aircraft into runway 36R (runway view possible but limited if the grass is not cut) as well as airplanes using the bridges to get to the Airside concourses. You can also photograph aircraft departures from runway 35L – smaller aircraft may are high up in the air already.
The Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 depicted below is using the bridge on taxiway F whlist the LAN A319 in the pictures below is taxiing on J. Keep that in mind for the light situations.
|TIME||The best time depends from the angle you photograph. Planes on the runway can be shot from around 12pm in winter months. Planes on Taxiway F can only be shot on cloudy days as sun won’t make the round to be suitable on winter days. Taxiing aeroplanes can be photographed throughout the entire day. From sunrise to 12pm, planes leaving via 36L are best to be shot from here.|
|MISC.||We recommend not to leave your car as it is a lay-by only which is possibly not designed to have a rest here, I guess. Keep a low profile, as always in the United States and fake a glitch or something in case of a check.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70-300mm is absolutely enough.|
|WHERE||If you are travelling from Spot 2 to Spot 3, don’t worry if you can’t get to the other way across the contraflow’s lane, there will be a u-turn possibility after a few yards further down the street. Heinzelman Boulevard is a long street running parallel between runway 35L and 35R enabling some photo possibilities along this road. Spot 3 is shortly before/after (depends from which direction you are travelling) the southern tip of 35R. You can either come from the south or from the north of the airport as there is a u-turn possibility near the spot where no crash barriers separate both lanes from each other. This U-turn possibility is marked in the map above.|
|WHAT||Arriving airplanes into runway 35R as well as departing airplanes on 35L.|
|TIME||Line-ups onto 35L can be photographed from sunrise until about noon in good light conditions, whilst arrivals into 35R are best to be shot from afternoon till sunset.|
|MISC.||You must remain on this lay-by for spotting. There is a sign which prohibits you from going further across the field as trespassing behind this lay-by is not allowed. We don’t know whether this is because of the airport’s security zone or due to wildlife areas. Keep a low profile, as always in the United States and fake a glitch or something in case of a check.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||A 70-300mm lens is totally appropriated for this spot.|
|WHERE||You can get there if you leave the airport terminals to the north on the Jeff Fuqua Blvd and always follow signs to Downtown Orlando on FL-436. After this huge motorway intersection turn left at the TGI Fridays restaurant. Then just follow the street’s course until N Frontage Rd (the road you are on) runs parallel to the Turnpike. McCoy Rd will appear to your right. It is just 200m further from Spot #6|
|WHAT||Arriving planes on runway 18R|
|TIME||Spotting from here is advisable from around noon to sunset.|
|MISC.||There is nothing special to mention here, lots of restaurants and a gas station are in close proximity. This is a famous spot also for MCO locals and families. You can park somewhere off the road. Security will most likely not come along here, Spot 6 is totally legal.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||A 50-150mm lens is totally appropriated for this spot.|
SAMPLE PICS FOLLOW SOON!
|WHERE||Spot 5 is just along the terminal access roads to both, Terminal A and B. These roads are along almost all concourses of Orlando Airport which sometimes offer good views. Unfortunately, Airside 3 and 4 are very blocked by trees or bridges so you cannot get good photographs of that. However, if aircraft are parked very comfortably at their gates or are being pushed back while you drive past, good photographs are possible. If you want to take a quick photo|
|WHAT||Parked or taxying planes at the concourses.|
|TIME||Airside 1 and 2 are best to drive past in the morning hours whilst you can not photograph planes at Airside 3 or 4.|
|MISC.||We do not recommend this spot for a longer stop. It is very likely that security will pop-up after a certain time since they also check the access roads regularly. But as long as you stay in your car and you turn on you hazard flasher, you’ll be safe. If you want to be on the safe side, fake a glitch or at least act as you would plan your route or whatever.
Of course, this spot recommendable with a car only.
|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|
|WHERE||Probably Orlando’s most famous spot around the airport – McCoy Rd. McCoy btw is the old airport’s name, that’s where the MCO code comes from. You can get there if you leave the airport terminals to the north on the Jeff Fuqua Blvd and always follow signs to Downtown Orlando on FL-436. After this huge motorway intersection turn left at the TGI Fridays restaurant. Then just follow the street’s course until N Frontage Rd (the road you are on) runs parallel to the Turnpike. McCoy Rd will appear to your right.|
|WHAT||Arriving airplanes into runway 18L and 18R only. You drive a bit further down on McCoy Rd to get closer to 18R arrivals, both spots are marked as Spot 6 above.|
|TIME||Spotting from here is advisable from sunrise to around noon. In the afternoon, simply drive down McCoy Rd until you cross the runway approach path and place anywhere you like.|
|MISC.||There is nothing special to mention here, lots of restaurants are in close proximity. This is a famous spot also for MCO locals and families. You can park somewhere off the road. Security will most likely not come along here, Spot 6 is totally legal.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||A 70-300mm lens is totally appropriated for this spot.|
|WHERE||This spotting locations is within the south cellphone waiting area, also called the south/red parking lot. From the terminal follow the Jeff Fuqua Blvd/South Access Road southwards and follow the signs to the parking. Turn left into the lot and drive all the way to the perimeter fence.|
|WHAT||Aircrafts departing on RWY17R rotating in front of you.
Taxiway photos for aircraft arriving on 17R or heading to the departure for 35L. You need a truck to stand in the bed or ladder to shot over the fence but latter is not recommend!
|TIME||From afternoon till sunset|
|MISC.||Nothing nearby. You can park up to 10min for free. $5 for 11 minutes to 3 hours, then $10 per 24-hour period|
|FOCAL LENGTH||55-300mm lense, depends on taxiway or departure|
This spot located at Jubilee Dog Park. From the Airport follow the Jeff Fuqua Blvd und S Semoran Blvd and turn right into Hazeltine National Dr until reaching Jubilee Park Blvd, turn right. Turn next left after the roundabout and park on open field.
|WHAT||Arrivals on RWY 17L only.|
|TIME||From noon till sunset.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||150-350mm depending of aircraft|
SAMPLE PICS FOLLOW SOON!
|WHERE||From Jeff Fuqua Blvd turn right on Cargo Rd and turn left Casa Verde Rd, shortly before end of the road turn right on Canal Rd. Just park on left side of the road.|
|WHAT||Arrivals on RWY 17R only, which is pretty rare.|
|TIME||From noon till sunset.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70-150mm depending of aircraft|
No sample photos available.
|WHERE||This place is known by many local Orlando spotters and is at the Silver Airways Maintenance Center on Heitzelman Blvd. As you enter, there is a small area off to the side wehre you can stand. Keep in mind that this area is a “No Parking” area so if you drive your car there, make sure you’re with it at all times, or park it in the main parking lot outside of the Silver Airways building and just simply walk over to the spot. As far as lighting goes, this is an excellent spot for arrivals for any time of the day, assuming it’s a sunny day.|
|WHAT||Excellent place for all aircraft that arrived on 35R and then turn into the taxiway J to reach the terminals. As you are on a lower level as the aircraft you have parts of the fence in your lower frame.
35L departures of heavier aircraft can also be spotted from here.
|TIME||Usually all day long for the taxiway. If spotting departures from here, it’s recommended to come in the morning.|
|MISC.||Nothing nearby. We have never been asked to leave here. In fact, there were a couple of instances where some of the employees actually encouraged us to continue spotting since some of them are aware that spotters come to this location frequently.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||18-55mm for full frame shots of the taxiway. You are very close! Departure photos below are just samples to show the angle!|
|WHERE||This location is next to the Southwest Airlines Maintenance Hangar on Wiley Drive. It lies on the approach end of Runway 36L. There is a Cul-de-sac as you drive all the way down the straight road.|
|WHAT||Arrivals on RWY 36L and departures from 18L/R.|
|TIME||This is a great place for afternoon and Golden Hour spotting.|
|MISC.||Absolutely nothing nearby.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||767=110mm; 738=170mm|
|WHERE||This location on right side of S Conway Rd. You can get there if you leave the airport terminals to the north on the Jeff Fuqua Blvd and always follow signs to Downtown Orlando on FL-436. After this huge motorway intersection turn left at the TGI Fridays restaurant. Then just follow the street’s course until N Frontage Rd (the road you are on) runs parallel to the Turnpike. McCoy Rd will appear to your right and follow to next intersection with traffic lights. Turn right on S Conway Rd, parking there is not possible. Park on Monarch Drive and walk to photo position.|
|WHAT||Arrivals on RWY 18R|
|TIME||From noon to sunset.|
|MISC.||Absolutely nothing nearby.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||B767=130mm; B738=180mm|
SAMPLE PICS FOLLOW SOON!
|WHERE||There is a public park located at Shadowridge Dr, called Airport Lakes Park, where you can spot 18 arrivals. Once you enter the parking lot at Shadowridge Dr, leave your car there and walk on the path to the lake. Once there walk on the small bridge until you arrive at the end to the shelter.|
|WHAT||Best for arrivals on RWY 18L as it is much closer but less in use. 18R is possible as well, but more far away.|
|TIME||From sunrise till around noon.|
|MISC.||Shelter spends shadow. Be aware of bugs and wesps. Hotels and restaurants are just around the corner.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||18L need a 200mm lens.
18R arrivals need a 400mm or more for a good quality shot on smaller aircraft