San Bernardino International Airport (SBD/KSBD) is located 3km southeast of the city of San Bernardino and was opened as a miltary base in 1942. After the military facilities were closed down in the 90s, the airport became a civil airfield now, which is mostly used for cargo charters and storage. The airfield is partly used as storage, but you may also see some planes being made ready for a new customer. However, SBD is most famous for being the main base in the greater Los Angeles region for firefighting planes in the hot wildfire season. Then the airfield can be very busy with up to 20 firefighting movements a day which are operated by a various fleet of planes. You can normally see Erickson Aero Tanker MD87s, 10 Tanker Air Carrier DC10s, Neptune and AeroFlite BAe146s as well as Coulson Flying Tankers C130s/B733 and the Global Supertanker B744. In addition to these huge airplanes, the airport is also used by some firefighting helicopters and sometimes also visited by military aircraft. Last but not least, there are also a few sports and general aviation movements here.
Written by Severin Hackenberger in cooperation with Christian Preinl and Patrick Weis. Pictures provided by Alex Crail, Michael Stappen, Rocky Wang and Yixin Chen. Last Update: 2020
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| (3 votes, average: 4.33 out of 5)
|06/24||3048m / 10000ft|
|Terminals||The only passenger terminal is currently closed as there are no schedule pax flights taking place|
|Ladder||Not needed actually except for spot #4.|
|Car/Public Transport||Definitely needed to get around and to cool yourself down on hot days.|
|Restrooms + Drinks/Food
||There are restaurants/gas station close to each spot.|
|Hotels||None directly around here which would offer good spotterviews.|
|Season||Summer is definitely more excting here with all the firefighting planes mentioned in the intro already. However, as you can guess, summer is very hot therefore. So heat haze can be an issue then.|
|Security||Spotting is cool here as long as you do not go onto private property. Take care as there are some GA companies and maintenance facilties in the north which quickly call the police once they see you. There is the possibility however to contact those in advance though and ask for a written permit that you will come and take pictures in personal interest only.|
|General Info||Single runway operations and runway 24 is the main direction of usage here, however firefighters may use the direction they need in order to get missions done quickly.|
|Spot #1 – Junction 3rd Street – 24 Arrivals|
|WHERE||Just next to the Ala-Palm Animal hospital, there is a little bulge by the roadside. You can stop your car there and shoot from the streetside now either north or south of the junction 3rd Street. The whole area round here is fine, you can position yourself freely depending on your favourite angle and a shooting window you are happy with. It is a bit tricky to park somewhere where it is not private.|
|WHAT||From here you can see aircraft arriving onto runway 24.|
|TIME||This spot can only be used from March till October once the sun comes around onto this side. But then it is perfect from late afternoon till sunset.|
|MISC.||There is a gas station and some fast food chains accross the street. Keep your camera a bit down in order to avoid attention, but otherwise spotting is totally fine here.|
|Spot #2 – Alabama street construction area – 24 Arrivals|
|WHERE||South of the arrival path there is a huge construction area east of Alabama Street. You can just pull over to the roadside with your car here (anywhere along the road mostly) and spot from there. You can freely position yourself here regarding your favourite angle/position.|
|WHAT||From here you can see aircraft arriving onto runway 24.|
|TIME||All year around – in summer from morning till late noon, in winter all day.|
|MISC.||There is nothing around and the construction site next to you makes a lot of dirt sometimes. Take care not to block the way for heavy trucks here.
Keep your camera a bit down in order to avoid attention, but otherwise spotting is totally fine here.
B733 side on = 150mm
|Spot #3 – (E) Central Avenue – 06 Arrivals|
|WHERE||Just before (E) Central Avenue bumps into S Tippecanoe Avenue in a big junction, there is a gas station southwets of the junction. You can leave your car here and then cross the junction/ S Tippecanoe Avenue to the eastern side/corners and position yourself along the walkway of (E) Central Avenue – there you will have a bigger window to shoot planes in the final approach.|
|WHAT||From here you can catch aircraft arriving onto runway 06.|
|TIME||All year around – in summer from morning till later noon, in winter all day.|
|MISC.||Gas Station with food and drinks is available here. Keep your camera down here in order to avoid attention as the spot is surrounded by private property and companies.|
B787 = 200mm / An12 = 185mm
|Spot #4 – S Leland Norton Way – 06 Arrivals and Departures + 24 heavy Arrivals and Departures + Ramp|
|WHERE||Make your way to the maintenance facilities in the southwest of the apron and take S Leland Norton Way to its southern end where the street makes a right turn just at the airport’s fence. There you will end up at a paved turning pad from which you can shoot – either from a bit away from you car’s top or from the fence (eventually with a small step).|
|WHAT||This spot offers a lot: aircraft arriving and speeding up on runway 06 as well as heavy 24 arrivals and climb outs. You can also see the ramp directly east of you mostly used for the water tankers to park.|
|TIME||This spot can only be used from March till October once the sun comes around onto this side. But then it is nice from (late) afternoon till sunset. The ramp may be lit earlier then late afternoon already as well.|
|MISC.||Nothing around. Keep a low profile due to the private parking and companies around here. Do not block the street and do not break any parking rules here! Do not hang out here for hours or a long time in general. Companies and people will then get suspicious and sent out police/security to send you away.
Heat haze can be a huge issue on the ground in summer. Small 2-3 stepladder or a car top you can stand on recommended in order to be able to shoot to the front and the ramp next to you.
KDC10 landing close-up = 320mm / BAe 146 = 290mm