Plane spotting at Miami International

  Miami International Airport offers a variety of domestic and international airlines and aircraft making it a great place to plane spot!

Miami International Airport offers a variety of domestic and international airlines and aircraft making it a great place to plane spot!

I was in Miami last weekend for the Georgia Tech-Miami football game. On Sunday, before flying home out of Fort Lauderdale, I decided to take advantage of a few hours to do a little plane spotting at Miami International. I pulled up several sites online to check for good spotting sites near MIA. Unfortunately, everything listed seemed best suited for eastbound arrivals and departures. I had already noticed that flights were coming in westbound so I figured I would just head to the airport and see if I could find a good vantage point.

  My first spotting location was the cell phone lot - not the best vantage point.

My first spotting location was the cell phone lot - not the best vantage point.

I first went to the cell phone lot which was located under the flight path to one of the northern runways. The problem was that it is directly under the flight path and did not offer good angles to get photos or video. As I parked, I looked up and saw a fairly large plane coming into land on the southern runways. It was a Lufthansa A380 which is quite a sight to behold in person. Unfortunately, the southern runways are so far from the cell phone lot that photos and videos, as well as viewing, are just not that impressive. So I jumped back in the car and decided I would try the parking deck structure in the middle of the terminal complex.

  My second location was on the top level of the Flamingo parking deck

My second location was on the top level of the Flamingo parking deck

From what I had seen so far, I was more interested in Runways 27 and 30 to the south of the terminals as there seemed to be more non-American Airlines traffic using those runways. The Flamingo parking deck was the better deck to view to the south. Fortunately, the top of deck was empty and I was able to get a good position offering a great view of the eastern ends of the two runways. I could easily see both arrivals on Runway 30 and departures on Runway 27 as well as planes taxiing to depart. For simply viewing, the spot was terrific. Unfortunately, as I had not come equipped with my dSLR and long lens, the only camera I had was my iPhone. While that camera takes nice snapshots, quality degrades rapidly when you zoom. To get decent shots, I had to zoom to the camera's max magnification. I did spot from here for a while and got some OK shots, but, as time started to run short, I wanted to see if I could find a location alongside Runway 27 to see the departures up close.

  The parking lot of the 94th Aero Squadron restaurant was a great spotting location for Runways 27 and 30  (click to enlarge)

The parking lot of the 94th Aero Squadron restaurant was a great spotting location for Runways 27 and 30 (click to enlarge)

My final location was my best. I really wish I had found it first! Perimeter Road runs alongside Runway 27 just outside the airport security fence. The 94th Aero Squadron restaurant sits at the intersection of Perimeter Road and NW 57th Avenue. Its parking lot provided the perfect spotting location. Normally, you have to be careful about sitting in the parking lot of a private business, but there were numerous spotters - one guy was standing on the roof of his car with a tripod - and other families and groups enjoying the beautiful afternoon and watching flight operations. Unfortunately, I had less than an hour before I had to head to FLL to catch my flight, but I was able to get some great shots and video. The most impressive aircraft were freighters - two Boeing 747-8Fs - but the spotting was still enjoyable. I really wanted to see the Lufthansa A380 depart, but it would have required me to stay an extra 30 minutes I just did not have. The next time I am in Miami I am going to definitely build in some spotting time, and I will come prepared with the proper equipment!