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Salt Lake City Intl. Airport Spotting Guide
The Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC/KSLC) is six miles west of Downtown Salt Lake. The airport served nearly 27 million passengers in 2018 and processed roughly 400 million pounds of cargo. Salt Lake City is one of Delta’s largest hubs and the operations base for Skywest Airlines (a regional carrier for American, Delta, United, and Alaska) so you’ll see a lot of 70 seat aircraft on your trip. KLM is set to return with thrice weekly seasonal service in April of 2022, and Eurowings Discover still plans thrice weekly seasonal service beginning in late may of 2022. Aeromexico has also returned to the airport with once daily service. Delta A350s can occasionally be seen on flights to Atlanta or Detroit, and rumor has it that the Delta A330NEOs are coming in the spring of 2022.
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 through the fence. Not only will you get in trouble with military security, you won’t get any good pictures either.
Written by local spotter Michael Rodeback (all spots updated February 2022)
|WHERE||If you are driving, follow the signs to the airport, then to Air Cargo. We recommend parking at the post office. It’s only a half mile walk at max. You can also park in the Air Ops parking lot if you don’t plan to leave it and spot the arrivals from some concrete blocks to avoid the fence. Otherwise arrivals and line ups are possible from anywhere along the road. We recommend trying different angles before settling in one spot. If you want to shoot over the fence there are some rocks next to the road where you can get on or you can shoot through the mesh.
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. There is no safe way to get here from the airport stop so don’t try it.
|WHAT||34R arrivals and line up from the taxiway H,H1, and M. Sometimes SkyWest will park a few of their planes on the remote stand next to the lot for an overnight stay. These provide great closeup views of E175s and CRJs.|
|TIME||Afternoon and evening year round.|
|MISC.||There are no restrooms or food options within two miles. During the warmer months, a can of insect repellent is a very good idea. You are right next to the Jordan River and the mosquitoes are big and plentiful. We’ve heard some reports of trouble with air ops here during the morning, but this isn’t a morning spot so you should be fine. There’s a decent chance the police will check you out if you’re at the fence, but they will usually ask you what you’re doing and then leave once they know you aren’t suspicious. If they say something else, be respectful and do as they say. Try again another time if possible.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Arrival CRJ700=250-300mm; 763=150-180mm
Air Ops parking lot
|WHERE||Follow directions to the parking garage and park there or have your ride drop you off at departures, then walk to the terminal. You can stay on the departures level or go down to ground level if you like. Riding Trax should be pretty self-explanatory. From the upper level you will have an unobstructed view of the apron. From the lower level you can go through the fence or walk back a bit and get over the fence.|
|WHAT||You get good views of all even numbered A gates and nothing but Delta from this spot. The smallest thing I’ve seen here is an E175 while the largest I’ve seen here is a 757-300. You may also be able to get some decent shots of departures on 16L and 16R.|
|TIME||This is also a decent option for night spotting, but it’s not great for that. When phase two of the new airport opens in a few years2023 this spot will work in the afternoon and evening too.|
|MISC.||Parking in the garage is $5 per hour. From the departures level you will have an unobstructed view of the apron. From the arrivals level you can go through the fence or walk back a bit and get over the fence. You shouldn’t have trouble with the police on the upper level, though the traffic officers might have a friendly chat for a few minutes. If you are on the lower level the police will likely come talk to you and find out what you’re doing. Then they’ll leave you alone once they know you’re plane spotting. If you need to warm up, use the bathroom, or get a snack, there should be a few options in the terminal.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Anything pushing back from A22 or A24 will need close to 18mm, while something small at A4 will need about 300mm. Keep in mind that it’s 1,500 ft. from this spot to the end of the concourse and at that distance you will likely be dealing with heat distortion.
Pictures taken from the upper level:
Pictures taken from the lower level:
|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 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. You can also get directions to “UDOT Division of Aeronautics” and that will get you to the right intersection.|
|WHAT||here are usually a few business jets parked that you can get through the fence near the entrance and 35 arrivals will fly by. In the morning when the winds are usually from the south, 17 arrivals should be catchable from the right spot. 34R arrivals may be possible with a long enough focal length but the 34s are rarely used in the morning. To get good 34R shots you will need to walk further down the trail towards spot #1.|
|TIME||All day depending on where you are.|
|MISC.||The closest restrooms and restaurants are near the train station. It’s a bit of a walk, but doable if necessary. I’ve never had any trouble with the police here. As you approach the extended centerline there will be signs saying “ILS Critical Area No Standing or Stopping.” Avoid stopping in these areas.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||An 18-105mm lens would be ideal for parked business jets but everything else needs a 70-400.
|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 Hyatt Place. You can park there. If you are riding Trax, you will have to get off at 1940 W, N Temple and walk the entire bike trail. 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 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||ust 34L arrivals. You may be able to find a place on the trail that gets you over the fence to get an aircraft taxiing, but these photos won’t be great.|
|TIME||All day long except noon when the sun is above the runway.|
|MISC.||You are in between a canal and the Jordan River so mosquitoes will be a problem in the warmer months. You shouldn’t have any trouble with the police here. They can’t really get out here to check you out unless they’re willing to take two hours out of their day. The trail doesn’t get your view above the fence so the aircraft has to be in the air for good photos.
As you approach 34L’s extended centerline, there will be signs that say “ILS Critical Area. No Standing Or Stopping.” Try to avoid stopping in these areas. No restrooms are available here.
|FOCAL LENGTH||Due to the wide variety of angles 50-400mm is perfect.|
Taken from the trail entrance at the hotel
Taken from the afternoon side on the trail close to the ILS
|WHERE||From I-215, take exit 25 and head west onto 2100 N. From there you can start spotting from anywhere along this road.|
|WHAT||Best for 16L arrivals from this spot. 17 arrivals are doable but reasonably high.|
|TIME||All day depending on where you are.|
|MISC.||You are on a busy road and police will be on you almost immediately if you park on the shoulder, so you have a few options: you can park somewhere else and walk (the DHL building is good for 16L traffic), you can have someone drop you off, or you can pick one aircraft every several minutes to photograph and pull over on the shoulder to get your shot and immediately leave for a while.|
|WHERE||From the airport loop, stay in the right hand lane and follow signs to Air Cargo. You can turn right, park at the post office, and walk, or you can turn left and park in one of the lots next to the spot. Once you’re headed north on 3700 W, watch for a street sign on your right that says 510 N. Turn down there and walk to the fence.|
|WHAT||All traffic going to 34R. The centerline of Taxiway H is 400 ft. from the fence and the centerline of 34R is 1,000 ft. from the fence.|
|TIME||Afternoon to sunset year round. Heat distortion shouldn’t ever be a problem for Taxiway H, but it usually is a problem for the runway in the summer until just a few hours before sunset. On a cold winter day, heat distortion likely won’t be an issue at all.|
|MISC.||This spot offers phenomenal backgrounds, but you do have to shoot through a fence. A security agency, air ops, or airport police may drive by and check you out (airport police is typically the friendliest). If they are giving you a hard time, you can tell them local spotters have emailed the airport about this location specifically and the airport said spotters are fine at the fence. Upon hearing this, they will usually leave you alone, but if they persist in their trouble-making, you will have to leave for a time. There are no food, drink, or bathroom options here. I don’t recommend using a ladder. It’s just not going to work. Keep in mind that you are taking pictures through a chainlink fence so keep your shutter speed as high as possible and make sure the fence doesn’t get in your shot.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||If you get the FedEx MD-11 taxiing on H it will be on the low end around 30mm. If you get a CRJ-200 landing on 34R it will be on the high end around 300mm.
Runway: 753=130mm; A220=160mm
|WHERE||Go to spot #5 and continue west down the road. Take the first left after the road curves south and turn into the DHL lot to park, or get directions to “DHL Express Service Point”.|
|WHAT||On the south side of the pad, you can get UPS and DHL pulling into the stand. On the north side, you can get FedEx pulling into the stand. You can usually get good pictures of DHL, FedEx Feeders, and other small aircraft parked at the stand up there, but there is no clear view of parked FedEx or UPS aircraft. In the cold winter months, you can also get 34R departures and 16L action with a long enough lens.|
|TIME||This spot is best in the afternoon and evening year round, but you may be able to get a few good pictures of some cargo action depending on the season.|
|MISC.||You shouldn’t have any trouble with authorities here, though some DHL employees may be curious about what you’re doing. There are no known food, drink or bathroom options here|
|FOCAL LENGTH||18-200mm works fine for cargo movements. 300-400mm is needed for 16L action, 500mm if you’re trying to make 16R action work early in the morning.
Ramp 738=70mm; A300=180mm
|WHERE||Take the Wright Brothers Dr exit off of I-80 and continue straight down Wright Brothers Drive, then turn right onto Amelia Earhart Drive and follow it to the end. The lot entrance is slightly off to the right of the cul-de-sac. Follow it around to the parking stalls on the east side of the building. You can also get directions to “Wintersteiger US.”|
|WHAT||This spot is best for 34L arrivals. It acts as an alternative to spot #4 with better opportunities for getting the peaks south of the airport as a background. Unfortunately, 34L departures are blocked by the fence. Belly shots of 16R departures are possible, but they’re not very good. Only a heavy 737 or very heavy A330 in the summer will rotate late enough for a decent shot.|
|TIME||The light is good in the afternoon and evening year round, but heat distortion is a problem in the warmer months until an hour or two before sunset. It shouldn’t be much of a problem in the winter if it’s there at all.|
|MISC.||You shouldn’t need to worry about authorities here and we’ve never had any trouble with the Wintersteiger people trying to kick us out. It can get pretty cold in the winter, so dress warm and stay in your car when nothing’s coming in.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||A side-on shot of an A350 or 787 will be on the low end, while an E175 in front of Lone Peak down south will need closer to 450 or 500mm.
|WHERE||Take the I-80 exit onto Wright Brothers Drive and follow it almost all the way to the end. Turn right into the lot of the building just before the last one and park on the south side of it. There’s a field just east of the building where you can take pictures. You can also get directions to “Francini Inc. Marble & Granite.”|
|WHAT||6R departures. In the winter months when the air is cold, aircraft get off the runway very fast and mountain backgrounds can be hard to come by unless you have 400-500mm, but in the summer months when the air is hot, aircraft take a lot longer and mountain backgrounds are much easier to get. A really light A220 or E175 departing 34L in cold air might give you a good shot, but if the aircraft doesn’t clear the fence in time, the shot won’t work.|
|TIME||Afternoon and evening year round.|
|MISC.||So far, no trouble with authorities or factory personnel, but a word of warning: there are signs on the building that say “Customer parking only. Violating vehicles will be towed.” It’s very unlikely that your car will actually be towed, but you do run the risk of it if you come here. This will be updated if/when we receive confirmation from the owners that they do not mind spotters parking there. Moisture from snow melt or fresh rain can make the field muddy, so beware.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||A side-on shot of an A330 or A350 will be on the low end, while mountain backgrounds on an E175 or A220 rotating early will be on the high end.|