In terms of passengers served and cargo handled (2017) Pensacola International Airport (PNS/KPNS) is the number one among the three major airports – the other two are Destin-Ft. Walton Beach Airport in Valparaiso (VPS/KVPS) and Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport near Panama City (ECP/KECP) – serving the Emerald Coast of the Florida panhandle. The airport is also a gateway for southern Alabama.
Current regulars at PNS are Delta Airlines, American Eagle, United Express, Southwest Airlines, UPS Airlines and Silver Airways. In 2018 Frontier Airlines started operating flights from/to Denver (DEN) and Chicago (ORD) respectively. Besides the “big guys” there is a lot of General Aviation traffic (especially on the weekends) as a flying club and a flight training facility are based at PNS.
The airport has plans in place to aggressively expand over the next few years and manifest its leading position in the area. In June 2018 a major independent aircraft maintenance facility was opened (VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering). The first customer under contract is UPS, which sends its 757s there for full MRO. Furthermore, American Airlines is planning to set up a maintenance shop for its subsidiary PSA Airlines. There are also talks, that UPS is going to expand its existing facility and that FedEx wants to build a logistics center to establish the airport as a major freight hub for the area.
Written by Thomas Okaty. Visited December 2018.
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|2,134 m (7,000 ft)||2,135 m (7,004 ft)|
|Terminals||One for all operations|
|Spotting Information||Ladder||Not recommended and not needed.|
|Car||Not a must-have – since the airport is not that big, technically, all locations can be reached by bicycle – but certainly more convenient. All are less than a 10 minute car-ride apart from each other.|
|Restrooms||None within walking distance at location #1 and #2. At location #3, restrooms can be found inside Walgreens or one of the fast food places.|
|Drinks/Food||None within walking distance at location #1 and #2, but numerous options can be found in and around Cordova Mall, which is located just west of the airport. There a several fast food places available at location #3.|
|Hotels||A few hotels are located near the airport entrance/exit on the westside of the airport.|
|Season||Best time of the year is November to April. It can get chilly during the winter months. During the summer you will likely have to deal with heat haze and thunderstorms. It also gets very humid.|
|Runway Usage||08/26||Used in both directions.|
|17/35||Used in both directions, but 17 more often as shore side wind is more usual. When crosswinds are manageable then traffic coming from the north often is using 17.|
|Spot #1 – Aviation Discovery Park – all movements|
|WHERE||This is a designated fenced in viewing area on the east side of the airport, nestled between General Aviation facilities. The park is open from 6am to 8pm (free of charge) and there is a small parking lot right at the entrance gate. In the center of the park is a (covered) tower whose height clears the fence and offers a great view on both runways.
Address: 4200 Jerry L Maygarden Rd, Pensacola, FL 32504, USA
|WHAT||Good for both runways. Rwy 08 departures will take off right in front of you.|
|TIME||08/26: From 6am to late afternoon.
17/35: From sunrise to around 10am (see backlit sample photo).
|MISC.||Nothing nearby, bring food and drinks. There are lots of benches and picnic tables, but no restrooms.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||08/26: 70-200 mm
17/35: 200-400 mm
|Spot #2 – Roger Scott Athletic Complex – Rwy 08 arrivals|
|WHERE||This spot is located on the west side of the airport, very close to the Rwy 08 threshold. When coming from spot #1, just follow along Summit Blvd until you see the sign “Roger Scott Athletic Complex”. Turn right onto that road and follow it all the way to the end. There you will find a big parking lot on your right, park your car at the east end of the lot. From there just walk up to the bike path, planes on final for Rwy 08 will be right in front of you.
If coming from the airport, turn left onto Summit Blvd and then turn left again just where another road merges from your right (you won’t be able to see the mentioned sign!).
This is a known viewing area and it’s OK to take a few steps towards the fence (which is not really needed as you are already very close to the runway approach zone), but keep a reasonable distance as the fence is equipped with sensors and you will get airport security’s attention quickly when you get too close.
Address: 2130 Summit Blvd, Pensacola, FL 32503, USA
|WHAT||All runway 08 arrivals. For aircrafts lining up for takeoff on runway 08 a ladder is needed, but only set it up next to the bike path!|
|TIME||From sunrise to late afternoon.|
|MISC.||Nothing nearby, bring food and drinks. No restrooms. The trees between the path and the parking lot provide plenty of shade.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||50-150 mm|
|Spot #3 – Langley Ave – Rwy 17 arrivals|
|WHERE||This spot is located along Langley Avenue, which crosses through the runway 17 approach zone north of the airport. There are a few stores at the western edge of the approach zone, you can park your car there. In the morning just walk along the sidewalk of Langley Avenue to the eastern edge of the approach zone and position yourself in the area between the corner of Langley and McAllister and the trees. Once the light gets unfavorable relocate to the west end. There is a tree, which provides some shade, and a bench right next to the sidewalk. In both spots make sure to stay close to the sidewalk!
Address: 2408 Langley Ave, Pensacola, FL 32504, USA
|WHAT||All runway 17 arrivals.|
|TIME||Sunrise to sunset. Just switch over to the other end of the runway approach zone once shots are starting to get backlit.|
|MISC.||Food, drinks and restrooms can be found inside several fast food places within walking distance (intersection Langley Ave & Tippin Ave).|
|FOCAL LENGTH||50-200 mm|