Spotter Guide: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Spotting at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, Washington brings many challenges, but for great reward. While there is no spot that gives 180 degree panoramic views over the airport like Imperial Hill at LAX or the parking garages at IAH, there is plenty of spots to get some great shots of movements at this growing airport nestled right on the Puget Sound.

The “Water Tower                                                                                                                                                                  Off S 146th street north of the airport, you’ll see a massive circular structure. This is precisely where you will spot from. Heading westbound before getting to the employee parking lot, there will be a small pull off in the road with a few parking spaces for parking. You will then have to walk a few yards, and voila! This spot gives some great angles of aircraft landing from the north on RWY 16L. You will need a lens 300mm + to get shots of landings on 16C or 16R, but you can even use a wide-angle lens to grab some shots of landings on the western runway. Departures are visible, but photo opportunities are usually impossible due to heat haze / light poles / trees. This spot is best from sunrise to midday when the aircraft are landing from the north.

*Spot marked with red marker

   

ASIG FBO

On Starling Drive immediately southwest of the airport, you will see a small building that is labelled by ASIG. While it may not look it, this is arguably the best spotting location at the airport. Visitors are always welcome during the operating hours, and every once in awhile the employees will allow you to go out on the tarmac, however do not ask for this. In this building, you will have to shoot through some windows, but reflections are easily avoidable with proper preparation. This spot has some incredible views of the entire airport, and great views of RWY 34R/34C landings and departures. This spot is best from early afternoon to sundown, but for 34L landings, best from sunrise to midday. Besides some awesome photo opportunities, the FBO provides T.V, free Wi-Fi, restrooms, and vending machines. This spot really has it all, which makes it my personal favorite to go to at SeaTac. Remember, make sure planes are landing from the south.

*Spot marked with red marker

Cargo Apron

Maybe the most hidden and for the most part unknown spot at SeaTac, the cargo apron is certainly a hidden gem. Going all the way to the end of Air Cargo Rd. to the northwest of the airport, there is a bunch of buildings, and the old United Airlines Cargo building is the place to be. Whilst being a relatively desolate area of the airport, walking to the fence will give you some unmatched views of taxiing and departing aircraft directly from the tarmac! This spot works best with any lens longer than 200mm, and is most effective from sunrise to late morning, where you will get some crisp morning lighting. This spot works great for any pattern, but is especially good for 34R/16L departures and 34L arrivals, which taxi straight at you while taxiing to the gate after landing. The problem with this spot is the high risk of obstructed views due to parked aircraft or heat haze. This spot is best during winter.

* Spot marked with red marker