Santa Barbara Airport (SBA/KSBA) is a regional airport, located 170km northwest of Los Angeles, and serving the needs of the Central Coast. At the moment 6 airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Contour Airlines, Delta Connection, Frontier Airlines, and United Airlines flying to and from SBA. The airport is a West Coast hub location for Contour Airlines which flies to Las Vegas, Oakland, and Sacramento from the airport. Alaska Airlines holds the title for the largest aircraft to serve Santa Barbara on their Seattle to Santa Barbara flight with the Boeing 737-800 and the occasional 737-900. Destinations served by the airport are Chicago O’Hare (starting June 4,2020), Dallas Ft Worth, Denver (Frontier/United/SkyWest), Las Vegas (Contour), Los Angeles (United/SkyWest), Oakland (Contour), Phoenix Sky Harbor (American/Mesa/SkyWest), Portland PDX (Alaska/Horizon), Salt Lake City (Delta Connection/SkyWest), San Francisco (United/SkyWest), Seattle (Alaska). Previously the airport had a nonstop flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul operated by Sun Country but were cancelled after only two years.
General aviation is a big part of Santa Barbara and offers a wide variety of aircraft that come in and out. Business jets are a frequent visitor to the airport and offer many different varieties that come through the airport. Cargo flights are operated early in the morning and early evening by Ameriflight and FedEx Feeder. The airport also gets the occasional military flight due to the closeness of military bases in the area.
There is always something interesting that comes into Santa Barbara and you have to always be on the alert for when it comes. Please be aware the airport does frown upon the sale of photographs and will require you to go through the airport police if you do plan on selling or profiting from the photographs. Additionally the airport would like to be notified beforehand if you do plan on spotting at the airport since they would like to know who is there and to reduce to calls for individuals taking pictures.
Written by Ricky Tetris (regular visitor) – thanks to Zach (ZJH Aviation Media), who provided some pictures. Last update January 2020.
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|07/25||1.845 m (6.052 ft) Asphalt|
|15R/33L||1.275 m (4.184 ft) Asphalt|
|15L/33R||1.274 m (4.180 ft) Asphalt|
|Terminals||One terminal handles all passenger flights.|
|Ladder||A ladder is suggested for spot 1 since you will have a better vantage point above the fence. Cops have no problem if you use one.|
|Car/Public Transport||Car is recommended for getting to spots #3 and #4. Public transportation is available to all spots with a short walk to each location from the terminal.|
|Restrooms||Not available at all spots but at spots #1,#2, and #5 there are restrooms available inside the terminal building. Resturants in the area offer restrooms.|
|Drinks/Food||Food/drinks available at resturants and fast food spots nearby.|
|Hotels||None located on airport but there are a few in the area around the airport.|
|Season||Best time for spotting is from Fall to Spring as the sun will be on one side and not require moving to another location. In the summer months the sun does tend to create heat haze and moving to another location is needed in the afternoons.|
|General Info||Commercial flights, business jets and some General Aviation aircraft use 7/25 for arrivals or departures depending on the wind direction. Many of the General Aviation aircraft use runway 15L/33R and 15R/33L for touch and goes along with general departures.|
|07/25||This is the main runway for the airport and all commerical flights use either runway 7 or 25 for arrival/departure depending on the wind direction. During low visibility aircraft will arrive on 7 since it is equipped for ILS operations. Normally all flights will arrive on 25 and depart 25.|
|15R/33L||This runway is mainly used for general aviation aircraft departing. Rarely do departures go from 33L as well as arrivals. Shots of aircraft departing or arriving are rather difficult due to the distance and being backlit in the afternoon.|
|15L/33R||This runway is mainly used for general aviation aircraft departing and arriving. As noted above, rarely are there departures/arrivals from 33R.Shots of aircraft departing or arriving are rather difficult due to the distance and being backlit in the afternoon.|
|Spot #1 – Dirt Hill/Electrical box, long term lot – Runway 25 / taxiways A,G, J,and H / terminal ramp|
|WHERE||There are three possible photo locations very close together just on the north of the airport terminal at the parking. All have views of the ramp, taxiway, and runway. With the assistance of a small ladder you are able to get unobstructed views of the aircraft which are parked on the ramp and also aircraft that taxi by and depart/arrive on runway 7/25. For closer viewing of aircraft taxiing by go to the fence for great shots of aircraft taxiing by. At the electrical box you have unobstructed views of aircraft that will be taxiing onto the runway or taxiing off the runway. If you have a car use the parking lots, they do charge by the hour but a minimal fee depending on how long you are at the lot, best if you park at the long term lot.
Spot #1a Dirt Hill/Fence Arrivals 25, Departures 7 and Taxiing off/on runway. Arrivals on runway 25 can be viewed here as well as departures from 7 can be viewed from here. If you go to the fence you get a view up close of aircraft taxiing by.
Spot #1b Electrical box arrivals and departures 25/7 and taxiway. This location is secondary to the dirt hill since it offers a higher vantage point compared to the hill. It also offers the opportunity to be closer to aircraft which are taxiing by.
Spot #1c Long term parking lot Runway 25 departures,arrivals, runway 7 departures and arrivals, taxiway. This location is best if you have a vehicle that is high enough to view the aircraft taxiing by. If not a ladder is fine as well, but be aware that the police may come by to check to see what you are doing. Be aware that this is not airport property, it belongs to the parking lot owners. There is also limited space and if you are lucky you can get a spot closer to the fence.
|WHAT||Full view of runway 25, taxiway Alpha,Golf, Juliet, and some of Hotel is visible from this location. Along with part of the ramp area where Contour, United Express, Frontier and Delta Connection park their aircraft.|
|TIME||Best time for viewing in the fall to early/mid-spring since sun is behind you all day. During late spring through summer you will have to move to another location during the afternoon since the sun shifts. Also be aware that heat haze may follow through the year but is worse during the summer.|
|MISC.||Be aware that police may come by to speak with you if you are using a ladder, they are friendly and will let you continue. Also be aware that the green electrical box is not on airport property and you may be asked to get off the box due to safety. Having a ladder is best for taking pictures of aircraft that are taxiing, arriving, departing on the runway. If you do find a spot in the long term lot using the roof of your car (if high enough) is also an option for when you are wanting to take pictures of aircraft taxiing by, arriving or departing.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||18-55mm recommended for pictures at the fence line. 55-200,100-400mm is recommended for shots of aircraft arriving and departing on the runway. >400 is recommended if trying to get shots of aircraft at long distances and on the Signature ramp|
|Spot #2 – WWII Memorial – Runway 25 arrivals|
|WHERE||This location is located farther away from the terminal and is accessible by foot and car.The location is difficult to locate but is marked by signs saying WWII MEMORIAL. This location does not require a ladder.|
|WHAT||Views of aircraft arriving on runway 25 are visible from this location. This spot is only good for shots of aircraft arriving on runway 25. Spot #1 has better viewing access.|
|TIME||Best all day during fall to early spring. During mid spring to beginning of fall the sun will shift and you may encounter backlit situations.|
|MISC.||This location offers small benches for viewing and some trash cans. No food or restrooms are available. Food and restrooms can be found at fast food places up the road. Parking is available but is very limited.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||50-300mm is best for aircraft on arrival
A320 = 90mm
Thanks to Zach (ZJH Aviation Media) to provide us following two shots:
|Spot #3 – Deckers Park – arrivals on runway 7|
|WHERE||This location is a park that is easily accessed by car. You get great views of aircraft arriving on the runway but departures are too high to get. No ladder is recommended for this spot. Park has open areas for uninterrupted spotting of aircraft which are arriving on runway 7 when reverse operations are in affect. Please be aware that parking is limited and may not be possible at park.|
|WHAT||Full view of aircraft arriving on runway 7|
|TIME||Best time is when aircraft are arriving on runway 7. All day is best for viewing but be aware that the sun does shift in spring and summer and you will have to move if they are arriving on 7.|
|MISC.||There are benches available for sitting, along with picnic tables to eat at. There are no restrooms or food nearby but there are some located down the road and closer to UCSB. Be aware that parking may be limited and that some of the parking areas do not allow anyone to park there.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||55-300mm/100-400mm are best for capturing arrivals on the runway|
|Spot #4 – Above All Aviation – arrivals 7/25 and departures 7/25|
|WHERE||This location is at the Above All Aviation center on the north side of the field. There is a fence there and it may be possible for using a ladder to get photographs but be aware that you may be asked not to use one.|
|WHAT||Runway 7/25 arrivals and departures|
|TIME||Mid spring to late Summer in the afternoons/late afternoons for viewing since aircraft are not backlit. Be aware that there may be heat haze in the summer months|
|MISC.||This location is best accessed by a car and recommended that you be aware that you may be asked to leave. There are a few tables available to sit at. Food and restrooms are available down the road at the fast food spots.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||55-300mm is best for getting aircraft that are arriving/departing|
We cannot prove pictures for the moment from this location but this photo was taken there.
Source: Google street view
|Spot #5 – Rental car lot – aircraft at gate and taxiing by from general aviation ramp|
|WHERE||This location is at the rental car lot near the end gate at the terminal.|
|WHAT||Aircraft parked at gate and taxiing by to general aviation ramp are visible.|
|TIME||Morning to early/mid afternoon during the Fall to spring. During the summer it may be difficult later due to it being backlit at times.|
|MISC.||This location is closest to the terminal and located in an area where you are in full view of everyone. Be aware you may be contacted to move on due to the spot being so close to aircraft .|
|FOCAL LENGTH||18-55 for aircraft at gate and some taxiing by|