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Los Angeles (LAX)

Lufthansa 747 touching down on 25R. View from the Theme Building.

As a Bay Area native, itís hard for me to admit that anything about Los Angeles is good, but I have to swallow my pride and admit that LAX, in my opinion, is the best airport in the country. The interior is clean, well-organized, and ranges from good-looking in some spots to surprisingly attractive in others. LAX is loaded with great places to spot, both indoors and outdoors, and when you combine the quality of the spotting with the vast numbers of areas to spot, and you get the absolute best spotting airport in the United States.

LAX has a very common layout: all the terminals are situated between two separate, parallel runways systems. In this case, all four runways run east-to-west (7/25's, 6/24's), and planes almost always depart to the west. There are seven terminals and the Tom Bradley International Terminal, and about 50% of the traffic, if not more, is a 757 or larger.

JAL 747 arriving on 24R. View from the Theme Building.

-Terminal 6, Gate 69A: Absolutely fantastic, close-up view of departing aircraft on the south field. Smaller aircraft a hundred feet in the air by the time they come into view, but heavies rotate right at this spot. Powerful jet blasts shake the terminal because they are so close. Planes taxiing by are right in front of your can almost reach out and touch them. 69B provides a great view too, although this view is often blocked by a plane at the gate next door.
-Bradley Intíl Terminal: The Bradley Terminal has several areas which provide great spotting and photo ops. On the top floor there is a food court, which is about the only place in the terminal you can access without a boarding pass. On the west end of the food court is an observation area with a great but distant view of departures on both runways as well as a front-row seat for an active taxiway. On the north and south ends of the food court you can get a spectacular view of the planes lined up at the gates. These areas make for terrific photography, and you can even watch a few departures. Another great view of planes parked at the terminal comes outside the terminal. In between Bradley and Terminal 3, and also between Bradley and Terminal 4, you can get an world-class view of the planes.

FedEx DC-10 rotating on 25R. View from the Theme Building.

-Theme Building observation deck:
Situated almost directly in the center of the airport, the Theme Building has an elevated observation deck which provides a 5-star, 360-degree view of the action. Takeoffs on the south field and landings on the north field are such a delight to watch from this spot that you may never want to leave. In my opinion, this observation deck is the best spotting area in the U.S. (NOTE: DUE TO SECURITY CONCERNS, THE OBSERVATION DECK HAS BEEN CLOSED. NO NEWS ON IF AND WHEN IT MAY RE-OPEN.)
-Sepulveda Blvd: Sepulveda runs along the east side of the field and gives a good view of approaches on 6/24. There is a bridge that goes over Sepulveda...I canít remember the street name, but from this bridge you get an awesome view of 6/24 from the eastern edge. Birds on approach for 6/24 are a pleasure to watch from here.
-Lincoln Blvd. Running along the north side of the field, Lincoln Blvd. runs a good portion of the length of the north field. If you can see over the fence, youíll get a fantastic view of the action on 6/24, especially when it comes to arrivals.

United DC-10 arriving on 24R. View from the Sepulveda Blvd. area.

-As a general rule of thumb, I have found that security on the West Coast is much, much more relaxed than on the East Coast. In all my spotting at LAX I have never had any sort of hassles from police or security. I have heard reports of people politely being asked to leave the Sepulveda Blvd. area...the aforementioned bridge over Sepulveda is right across the street from airport police and is easily visible from police patrolling the perimeter. Aside from that, I have spent many hours at the Theme Building hanging over the glass, flaunting my camera for all the world to see, and I have never been told by security to stop. And all the terminals are open to the public (with the exception of the gate areas on the Bradley Intíl Terminal).

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