San Antonio International airport (SAT/KSAT) is located 8 miles north of San Antonio’s Downtown. The airport has three runways, covers 933 ha and is 247m/809ft above sea level. The airport is Texas’ 5th busiest airport and ranked as 44th busiest in the USA. It was founded in 1941 during WW II as a training base for the US Army Air Forces and was named “Alamo Field”. After the war the airfield wasn’t needed anymore by the USAAF and was handed back to the City of San Antonio. Back in 1953 the construction works on Terminal 2 (not existing anymore) were finished and in 1984 Terminal 1 (now named A) was opened. The airport build a new ATC Tower, two new parking garages, but former Terminal 2 was torn off in May 2011 after Terminal B was opened in November 2010 (which replaced T2).
SAT handled more than 10 million passengers back in 2019 and is served by a hand of different airlines (or their daughtercarriers): Aeromexico, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines/Eagle, Delta Air Lines and Connection, Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and Express, Viva Aerobus and Volaris. Apart from those PAX-airlines, San Antonio International Airport is being visited by some American military aircraft and is being served by some freighters, too. For example: Ameriflight, FedEx and UPS Airlines. Also DC-10 and 707 tankers can be seen coming and going from time to time.
Furthermore, VT SAA is a heavy maintenance facility that handles all types of commercial airliners and freighters and see’s quite a bit of aircraft types such as 787’s, 767’s, 757’s, 747’s, DC-10’s, MD-10’s, MD-11’s, 777’s, A320, and the Embraer series. Although this traffic is sporadic it does provide some added variety from time to time. VT SAA also see’s quite a few cargo flights supplying air frame components from carriers such as Atlas Air and National – rarely, SAT even has a rare visitors like a Volga-Dnepr Il-76.
Written by Severin Hackenberger, Luke Ayers and Don Rogers. Last Update: January 2021
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|Terminal A||Domestic carriers: Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, Delta Air, Frontier and Southwest Airlines
As well as International carriers: Aeromexico, Air Canada, Interjet and Volaris
|Terminal B||American Airlines and United Airlines with all their regional partners|
|Ladder||Not needed and not recommend to use as security is difficult here along the fence!|
|Car/Public Transport||Car is recommended as it’s much easier here and public transport is quite poor.|
|Restrooms||Around the airport there are some restaurants, shops and similar, where restrooms can be found. Apart from this, those can be found inside the terminal.|
|Drinks/Food||Around the airport there are some hotels, restaurants, shops and similar, where food can be found and grabed. Apart from this, food and drinks can be found inside the terminal.|
|Hotels||Hotels are mainly south and west of the terminal.|
|Season||The winter months might be better than the summer days due to heat haze and better weather/smoother light. Recommended season is from October-March.|
|Security||Spotting in the United States is not always tolerated. There have been many reports from spotters that police checks were performed here in the US. Especially in San Antonio, police is ubiquitous and sends us spotters away regularly. Spotting at some places is not tolerated and even strictly prohibited. However, KEEP A LOW PROFILE at all spots here in SAT. We recommend (and it’s sometimes even required) to call the airport police at difficult spots prior spotting, to ask for permission and to inform them of your actions – especially recommended at spot #4 and #6. You can reach the police with this number: 210-207-3450
Please be also aware of following facts: The police is quite harsh of endangering the streets safety, so 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 mostly safe but check the MISC box for further info. Spotterguide.net is not liable for any inconvenience and misbehaviour towards the police of fellow spotters.
Many business owners in the areas around the airport are tolerant of people stopping for a few minutes and taking photos of aircraft but any extended parking and spotting will get you noticed and often a visit from the police. Any special traffic or unusual aircraft types will usually bring out the local photographers and once the traffic has landed or departed they leave the area.
|13R/31L||Rarely in use and majority of the traffic will be GA traffic.|
|13L/31R||Used for arrivals as 13 and for departures as 31 – other Usage is very rare!|
|04/22||Used for arrivals as 22 and for arrivals & departures as 04 – other Usage is very rare!|
|WHERE||This spot is located E Nakoma Drive, which runs between the airport fence and a parking for a church community. Apron shot were taken form the sidewalk next to the fence and the arrivalshot was taken from the mnetioned parking.|
|WHAT||Arrivals on runway 13 and the nearby apron activities.|
|TIME||From sunrise till late morning. Almost unuseable in winter.|
|MISC.||No ladder needed, enough parking possibilities around the spot, but all other facilities like restrooms and stores are a few meters away.|
A320 = 280mm / Cessna 680 = 175mm
|WHERE||This spot is located near the crossing of East Nakoma Drive and San Pedro Avenue where you can find a gas station for example. It’s not an exact position rather the are around the crossing, because it depends on the angle you like the most! You might park your car at the nearby shops, gas stations or similar and easily walk around here. Our example pictures were taken from the sidewalk next to the Shell gas station.|
|WHAT||Arrivals on runway 13R, but 31L Departures should also work here|
|TIME||From sunrise till late morning. In winter almost unuseable.|
|MISC.||No ladder needed, enough parking possibilities around the spot and everything nearby like restrooms and stores – for example a gas station.
DO NOT PARK YOUR CAR IN THE MEGAPLEX PARKING AS THEY DO NOT TOLERATE PEOPLE WITH CAMERAS. Rather use the shell gas station next to it.
A320 = 135mm / CRJ9 = 150mm / Cessna 525 = 270mm
|WHERE||You can park your car at the nearby shops/stores and then walk to the bridge, which connects Sandau Road and East Rhapsody Drive. You can stand next to the bridge, too, the view is almost the same, you’ll just have some more signs in your way at some moments, but therefore you can’t be seen that easy while spotting – this is sometimes very helpful and important at SAT.|
|WHAT||Arrivals onto runway 13R, but 31L Departures do also work. You can also shoot aircraft just while lining up on 13R as the Alaska B738 shown below – pictures are often very hazy though.|
|TIME||From midday till sunset.|
|MISC.||No ladder needed, enough parking possibilities around the spot and everything nearby like restrooms and stores inside the terminal facilities.
Heat haze is a huge problem on Line-up shots (except in winter months).
AA arriving B738 = 140mm / B744 side on = 85mm / Alaska line-up B738 = 270mm
|WHERE||This spot is located along the fence next to one of SAT’s military and GAT aprons. Next to this apron/fence runs the “Sandau Road”, which can be entered easily and without any permissions or problems. Just park your car by the roadside here and go to the fence, just for taking your pictures!|
|WHAT||The apron infront, which is mostly used by military aircraft, can be seen as well as the runways and taxiways behind the apron.|
|TIME||From midday till sunset.|
|MISC.||Ladder not needed to get over the fence as this one is very low. No facilities nearby, where you could get food or find restrooms.
KEEP A LOW PROFILE! We received reports, that spotters got stopped by the police for a quick ID check after they took pictures at this spot – probably because the apron is used by military aircraft. So take your pictures fastly and go away again or call the airport police before spotting here and report them about your plans. Police can be reached here: 210-207-3450
Metroliner = 18mm / Learjet 35 = 160mm / MD10 arrival = 190mm / B738 arrival = 280mm
|WHERE||This spot is located inside the terminal B and can only be reached WITH A VALID BOARDING PASS. It’s located AIRSIDE, so AFTER SECURITY CHECK. Keep this in mind when planning spotting here. But after you passed the security check of temrinal B, just go down into the direction of the finger’s end and search your favourite position along the glassfront along the terminalfinger.|
|WHAT||All activities around, so the apron of terminal B, parts of the apron of terminal A and other aprons around the terminalfinger here. Apart from this some taxiways and a few runways (or at least parts of them) can be seen from here.|
|TIME||Depends on your subject to spot, but mostly better in the afternoon.|
|MISC.||All facilities inside this finger like restrooms or foodshops.
Keep in mind, that you need a VALID BOARDING PASS to reach this spot, which is located AFTER SECURITY CHECK, so it’s AIRSIDE.
|FOCAL LENGTH||24 – 400mm
B737-700 = 75mm / Storageapron overview = 235mm / Beech C90 = 290mm
|WHERE||This spot is located on top of the short term parking garage (Level 6), for normal cars, not on the rental car parking garage.
To get to this spot, you first will park your car on level 1 of SAT Park’s short term parking. Then you will take the elevators to level 6. After you are done spotting, you go back to your car and then drive out and you pay on the way out. In the elevator, it says on a sign “Level 6 – Restricted” This is the only indication that says the area is restricted there are no more signs anywhere else on the garage level or anything that may suggest you should not be up there – we have been up there over 25 times and never been kicked out, just try to stay away from the elevators where very rarely, an employee will come by, but even then they will not say anything unless you look very suspicious.
|WHAT||Runway 13R arrivals and departures, Runway 31L arrivals and departures, Runway 04 arrivals and departures, and runway 22 departures.|
|TIME||Afternoon (Best from noon to sunset).|
|MISC.||No ladder needed. All facilities you need can be found inside the nearby terminal. Be cautious of cars driving around as some people aren’t very aware and they drive fast. You will see many employees driving cars around on top of the garage, but they are always careless when they see spotters up there and they will not say anything to you unless you look very suspicious. Heat haze can be a problem.
Call the airport police, before spotting here to ask for kind of permission prior spotting. Eventhough you did so, it might happen, that police officers or security guys will visit you while spotting to check your ID and ask questions like what you’re doing here. It should be clear, but stay friendly and polite, tell them, you’re doing this as hobby and you’re just taking pictures of planes and so on… Number to call: 210-207-3450
Taxiing 747 = 100mm / Arriving Southwest 737 = 330mm / Taxiing Sun Country 737 = 140mm
|WHERE||There is a good spot along the NE Entrance Road, where you can usually park along the fence in the grass and then stand on the sunroof to take photos in order to see over the fence.
This spot can be approached best from Wurzbach Parkway from the north.
|WHAT||22 Arrivals and departures. Great view of aircraft taxiing to runway, taking off, and landing.|
|TIME||Best in the afternoon (Noon to sunset).|
|MISC.||We have never had any problems with airport police or any authorities. We have been waved at by airport police, as I think they don’t mind spotters there.
Heat haze can be a problem here. If you park along the fence with your SUV or anything larger, you can stand out your sunroof, or sit on top of your car. By foot or in a small car you will need a ladder.
|FOCAL LENGTH||18 – 400mm
E175 on runway = 155mm / GA on taxiway = 160mm / B738 on taxiway infront example picture = 100mm
|WHERE||This spot is literally just located by the roadside of “Wetmore road” which runs along SAT’s cargo centre and 04/22 runway. Just pull over onto the dirty little bulges which are located just next to the railroad and take your pictures from the nearby gravel mounds which allow you to shoot over the fence a bit.
Be aware, that this location is on Union Pacific Railroad property but parking here for short periods of time has never been an issue as long as care is taken not to get too close to the railroad tracks!
|WHAT||Movements on runway 04/22 as well as departures on 13s runway and arrivals onto 31s runway.|
|TIME||04/22: Sunrise till late noon
13/31s: Early morning only as light gets bad from late morning already…
|MISC.||Be aware, that this location is on Union Pacific Railroad property but parking here for short periods of time has never been an issue as long as care is taken not to get too close to the railroad tracks!
Heat haze can be a problem here on runway 04/22 as well as in front passing traffic on the road may disturb your view.
|WHERE||This spot is literally just located along Ceegee street which can be reached best from the east by turning off Broadway. Ceegee street is not that long, but several businesses are located around here but parking next to the curb on the street is not an issue as long as traffic is not impeded.|
|WHAT||This spot offers nice views of arrivals onto 31s runways and may also be good for heavy 13s outbounds.|
|TIME||Early noon till sunset.|
|MISC.||Never had any issues here as it is off the beaten path but spotting during business hours might garner some attention.|
|WHERE||This spot can be found in the south just next to a big freeway junction. In order to get here, take the Northern Blvd to this parking called “Cell Phone Waiting Lot”. Once you got here, park your car in the parking and stay in your car till the aircraft approaches in order to avoid attention.|
|WHAT||04 Arrivals only.|
|TIME||Early afternoon till sunset.|
|MISC.||There is a gas station, Burger King, convenience store, and restrooms available in front of this parking area.
Cars and busses waiting to pick up passengers are constantly coming and going in this lot, but spotting has never been an issue at this this location.
|WHERE||This spot is located on the sidewalk/bridge along East Terminal Drive. The best angle is about 5 poles down from where the terminal stops, which is rather close to the employee parking lot below you to your left. To get to this spot, you must drive up to the departures area where you would drop off a passenger. It would be best to get dropped off by someone or take an Uber there. Currently there is a “Sidewalk closed” sign but we were told by an airport police officer that spotting here is acceptable, just don’t stay for extended amounts of time. (1hr maximum) The further away from the terminal, the better. This is because parked United aircraft can get in the way, especially their APU exhaust which causes heat haze. You should not have any issues with this if you walk down far enough.|
|WHAT||All 13R and 31L movements plus partially taxiway and ramp.|
|TIME||From midday until sunset.|
|MISC.||The Terminal is just around the corner.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||AA 738 runway = 200mm; A320 ramp = 60mm|