Salt Lake City International Airport SLC/KSLC is located about six miles west of Downtown Salt Lake. It served 12.8 million passengers in 2018 (Me included : ) and 1.2 billion pounds of cargo. It is a huge hub for Delta and the operations base for Skywest Airlines (a regional carrier for American, Delta, and United) so prepare to see a lot of regionals.
There is also an Air National Guard Base here but these movements are unpredictable. Don’t go poking around the entrance to the base on the east side trying to shoot throught the fence. That’s a bad idea. KLM operates a 787 from Amsterdam in the summers and Aeromexico operates a daily flight from Guadelajara on an E190. The airport is currently going through a multi-billion dollar reconstruction so some of this information will be rendered useless by the end of 2020.
Written by local spotter Michael Rodeback (last updated February 2019)
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| (5 votes, average: 4.40 out of 5)
|16R/34L||3.658 m (12.000 ft) Concrete|
|16L/34R||3.658 m (12.000 ft) Asphalt|
|17/35||2.925 m (9.596 ft) Asphalt|
|14/32||1.491 m (4.893 ft) Asphalt|
|Terminal 1||Alaska, American, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, United|
|Terminal 2||Delta, KLM, Aeromexico (skyteam)|
|Car/Public Transport||Car is recommended. But you can access all spots exept #4 with UTA’s Trax. Walking along the Bike Path is possible for access to spots 1, 3, and 4 but the entire trail spans about 4 miles and a car is not allowed on it.|
|Restrooms||Not available at the locations with the exception of spot 2.|
|Drinks/Food||Not available at the locations with the exception of spot 2.|
|Hotels||There are several in the area of spot 4 and a few near spot 3.|
|Season||Sunny days are rare in winter, common in summer, but ground shots give you lots of heat distortion around mid day. Sunrise and sunset are your best summer bets.|
|General Info||Planes usually take off to the south in the morning and to the north in the evening. In the morning 16L and 16R will be used for departures and 17 for most arrivals.|
|16R/34L||Arrivals and departures. Most of the heavies go here. KLM and Aeromexico usually come here too.|
|16L/34R||Arrivals and departures. You get the best airline variety here because it’s closest to where all airlines except Delta, KLM, and Aeromexico.|
|17/35||Mostly arrivals. Rarely commercial departures. Just about all the G.A. traffic comes here.|
|14/32||Very short runway. Fedex feeders usually come here but usually very quiet. Some smaller G.A. traffic comes here too but never commercial traffic.|
|Spot #1 – N 3700 W – 34R/16L and taxiways H,H1, and M|
|WHERE||From I-80 take the airport exit and turn right at the “Air Cargo” sign, from there keep right and turn right. The post office is a distant but viable option for parking. Shortly after the post office, turn left. You have to watch for this one because it’s hard to see. If you take a hard right after the post office you’ve gone too far. Once you’ve turned left after the post office, there is a lot on your left where you can park. There is a beam on one entrance but don’t let that scare you. Take the next entrance option. If needed there is space to pull off to the side of the road and park at the very end by the entrance to the old golf course. This parking spot is just after the bridge and fits one car. If you are using Trax get off at the 1940 W North Temple stop and follow the road west towards the airport. This gets you to spot 3 and from there you can get to spot 1.
If you want to shoot over the fence there are some rocks you can stand on or you can just shoot through the mesh.
|WHAT||34R arrivals and departures, 16L departures, 17 arrivals. Sometimes Skywest parks a few of their planes at the remote stand right by the lot. When they do they start with the ones nearest the lot which puts the wingtip a good 30 feet from the fence! 17 arrivals come up on taxiway M and taxi near this spot.|
|TIME||Noon to sunset all year round.|
|MISC.||Airport ops wants you at least four feet from the fence. They will warn you once but after that your in trouble. They are fine with you standing in the bed of a truck, on top of a car, or on the cement barriers to get over the fence.
There are no resteraunts or restrooms in the area but not very many people go there if you want to use that option. It’s always a good idea to walk to different spots on the road and try different angles on the aircraft. The Jordan River is also right behind you so you have to be careful of mosquitoes in summer. Don’t use a ladder.Update Sep 2019: Avoid at all costs in the morning. There is a particular individual on the Wildlife team for Airport Ops that will harass you to no end and will even say your car is abandoned when you’re standing right next to it. Midshift and evening ops guys don’t mind at all if you’re there with your car. As long as you’re not on the private property like the golf course, you can hang there and be just fine. Police will also just check on you but once they see the camera, they just make sure you’re good, and they leave you alone. Police also don’t mind too much if you’re at the fence shooting through it to get planes lining up for 34R.
|FOCAL LENGTH||18-300mm on a crop sensor. 18-55 is needed for parked planes at the remote stand. Everything else fits within 70-300mm.|
|Spot #2 – Parking Garage – 34R/16L Taxiway H|
|WHERE||Take the regular airport exit of I-80 and follow signs to the parking garage. You’ll want level 3. If you are using Trax get off at the airport stop and go in side the terminal. Take the escalators up and go across the bridge. Then take stairs or elevators up to the third floor and go to the southeast corner.|
|WHAT||34R Arrivals and departures, 16L departures and Heavy arrivals and 17 arrivals. 17 arrivals taxi by here.|
|TIME||Noon to sunset. Not a super great spot in summer due to heat haze.|
|MISC.||$3 for the first 30 minutes and $2 for each set of 20 minutes after that. Restrooms and resteraunts available in terminals but not the garage itself. The whole airport is visible from the garage but the southeast corner on level three is the only place for photography. No ladder is needed. I have encountered police twice here. One time they were just watching planes and the other was some janitor who thought he needed to check me out and send me along. He left long before I did.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70-300 on a crop sensor. A 737 or A321 pushing back from the American gates will be about 70mm and a CRJ on the taxiway will be around 300mm|
|Spot #3 – Bike Trail East Side – 35/17 and 32 arrivals, 16L departures, Business Jet ramp south|
|WHERE||From I-215, Take the exit just after the I-80 exit and turn left. Go south on 2400 W and turn right on W North Temple. If you get to the big and busy North Temple you’ve gone too far. You can pull over on the side of the road and park. If you are taking Trax get off at 1940 west North Temple and go west down that road. There is a fence with signs that say BP1A. To the side there is a small door with a handle and a sign next to it that says Bike Trail Hours. These are usually based on the sun. If you’re there during the day you’ll be fine. Make sure you are within the hours and proceed through the door. There you can span the entire south end of the airport on the trail if you like.|
|WHAT||There are usually a few business jets parked that you can get through the fence near the entrance. 35 arrivals fly by. In the morning when the winds are usually from the south the 17 arrivals roll to the end of the runway and exit on Mike and taxi right by you. 34R arrivals may be possible with a long enough focal length but the 34s are rarely used in the morning.|
|TIME||All day depending on where you are.|
|MISC.||No Restrooms. Never had any trouble with police here. Do not use a ladder. As you approach the extended centerline there will be signs saying “ILS Critical Area No Standing or Stopping” if you look below the sign and it says begin step about fifty feet back. If it says end go forward about fifty feet. Then you can stop. Above all, obey the signs!|
|FOCAL LENGTH||18-300 on a crop sensor. An 18-105mm lens would be ideal for parked business jets but everything else needs a 70-300.|
|Spot #4 – Bike Trail West side – 34L arrivals, 16L departures.|
|WHERE||From I-80 go past the airport and take the next exit onto Wright Brothers drive. Then turn Right onto Wiley Post Way, followed by another right onto Tommy Thompson Road. Follow this road south until you get to the Hyatt Place. You can park there. Just to the east of the hotel there is the same sort of fence as the one at spot 3 with opening hours. These are usually based on the sun. If you’re there during the day you’ll be fine. Make sure you are within the hours and proceed through the door. There you can span the entire south end of the airport on the trail if you like. Enter the same way.|
|WHAT||You can get 34L arrivals and 16L departures only. 34L departures will have wheels cut off because of grass. KLM and Aeromexico usually come here. Regionals coming off of 16L will be somewhat high but you should be fine with everything else.|
|TIME||The whole day. All day depending on where you are.|
|MISC.||Never had any trouble with the police. No restrooms available. Do not use a ladder. As you approach the extended centerline there will be signs saying “ILS Critical Area No Standing or Stopping” if you look below the sign and it says begin step about fifty feet back. If it says end go forward about fifty feet. Then you can stop. Above all, obey the signs!|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70-300mm on a crop sensor. If you are farther from the extended centerline you will need a longer focal length.|
|Spot #5 – 2100 N – 16L arrivals and Departures, 17 arrivals|
|WHERE||From I-215, take exit 25 and head west onto 2100 N. From there you can pull over at the road and start the spotting session from anywhere along this road.|
|WHAT||Best for 16L arrivals and departures from this spot. 17 arrivals are doable but reasonably high.|
|TIME||The whole day. All day depending on where you are.|
|MISC.||You are on a busy road and Police will be on you pretty fast. Keep a low profile and stay in your car and just get out to take a photo. I haven’t been here in a long time for that reason.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||18-300 Should be fine. If you are right under the approach path you will need a really short focal length for the whole plane.|
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