St. Pete Clearwater Airport (PIE/KPIE) is located between St. Petersburg and Clearwater in the west of Florida and was opened in 1942. The airfield serves as hub for Allegiant A319/320s as well as some Sunwing and Sun Country flights, but more importantly, it is home to one of the area’s biggest US Coast Guard airbases. Here you can astonish C130s as well as MH60 helicopters both flown by the USCG. Apart from that, there is some GA traffic at PIE. Due to the airport’s proximity to Tampa, it is quite calm at St. Pete, with just over 2 million passenger a year, which makes spotting not that difficult. Therefore the airport’s location is not perfect for spotting as the north/northeastern side is completely inaccessible due to water.
Written by A. Hackenberger, thanks to Arno Vesterholm for the picture for spot #2. Last Update: April 2022
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|04/22||1800m x 46m|
|18/26||2966m x 46m|
|Terminals||There is only one terminal handling all flights.|
|Ladder||Not recommended, if you do no wanna clear your view, rather quickly climb your car’s top.|
|Car/Public Transport||A car is definitely needed for spotting.|
|Drinks/Food||Close to spot 2 you will find plenty options along the major street.|
|Hotels||There are some hotels directly next to spot 2, some rooms may offer elevated views on 36 arrivals.|
|Season||Summer brings bad light and humid weather, winter/spring is better with mostly sunny weather. Then you may also see more flights bringing people from cold parts of the country for vacation in Florida here.|
|Security||In general spotting around PIE is pretty safe and calm and you should not be harassed by airport security or police. Just do not hang around too long in the parking lots, especially at the fence with your big gear. More imprtant for the hangar/company one (northern = Spot 1) as the company may send you away.
Please be also aware of following facts: Always be prepared for an ID check. 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 – can be an issue once you shoot the gate guard, but normally spotters do not hang around there for ages anyway.
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.
|General Info||While aircraft have to take a runway, the helicopters can fly across the field. Keep that in mind, they do not have such clear routes/rules.|
|18/36||Used most of the time, majority of movements take 36.|
|Spot #1 – Company Parking Lot – 18 Arrivals + 36 Departures|
|WHERE||When coming from the terminal, first head towards USCG base entrance. Pass the preserved gate guard aircraft on your left and turn into the next street on the left again to avoid continuing straight towards the real gate. Stay on Fairchild Dr and just turn off to the right in front of the last hangar on your right before you reach the US Army helicopter base. Then make your way to the fence there on the company’s parking lot – exact spot marked on map.|
|WHAT||Here you can see aircraft arriving on runway 18 plus the 36 departures. You may also see USCG helicopters flying above the taxiways to leave the airfield area via the runway or some also fly straight somewhere in the sky, there is no real system. Do not think/hope you can shoot them nicely because they come close – we lost that gamble and only got the picture below with the helicopter behind the fence.|
|TIME||From later noon till sunset.|
|MISC.||Ladder may be useful but can quickly cause problems as you attract attention close to the army base. So try to shoot thru the mesh and otherwise hide inside your car to avoid further attention. DO NOT hang around with your camera along the fence here!
Nothing directly here. If you hang around here for a long time you may be approached and asked what you are doing.
S60 behind fence = 160mm / A320 = 110mm
|Spot #2 – Abandoned Parking Lot – Arrivals 36|
|WHERE||This spot is a small parking lot southeast of the airport boundaries. It is located just off Stoneybrook Drive North and seems to be abandoned, so you can park and shoot from wherever you want.|
|WHAT||Arrivals on runway 36 can be shot here.|
|TIME||From sunrise till noon.|
|MISC.||Nothing directly here, but south of the spot are some hotels/restaurants. If you hang around here for a long time you may be approached and asked what you are doing.|
A320 = 100mm