Location, Location, Location – Some of My Favorite Perches For Aviation Photography


Story and photos by Ken Kula

Lord Harold Samuel, a British real estate tycoon, is widely credited with the phrase “There are three things that matter in property: location, location, location”. I feel that this saying can be attributed to one’s photographic endeavors too. My belief is that you can have exquisite equipment and a great photographic eye, but being in the right place at the right time (read: “right location”) will yield the best results.

I’ve been involved with aviation photography for the better part of four decades… while I was an air traffic controller, a writer/photographer for the old Atlantic Flyer, and more recently as an editor for Photorecon.net. Some of my favorite photos have come from fantastic venues which yielded very exciting opportunities. 

Here are many of my favorite locations for photography, and some images that I created at them.


Andrews AFB Air Traffic Control Tower, Camp Springs Maryland. You might not know it, but the tower is an FAA facility which I visited during an annual Armed Forces Day Weekend air show. The “hot ramp” for performing aircraft was in front of the tower.



Alton Bay, New Hampshire ice runway. During the non-winter months, this is a certified seaplane base, but when a foot of ice forms, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and the FAA deem it an ice runway and a number of aircraft (I’ve seen 30 aircraft at a time) fill the plowed ramp area. Most pilots can’t say that they’ve landed on ice on purpose…

MASDC, AMARC, AMARG – Tucson, Arizona. The “Boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base has many almost unbelievable opportunities for interesting photos. This one was taken from the top of a B-52 Stratofortress’s wing during a media tour just prior to these giants being scrapped to comply with the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) specifications. These were mainly B-52D/E/F versions.

KC-135 Stratotanker familiarization flights. Tanker flights allowed this non-airman to see how a crew of three or four Air Force and/or Air National Guard members work together to refuel other military aircraft. It’s also an amazing opportunity to see formation flights in person. The Thunderbirds jet was taken during a pre-air show media flight in a New Hampshire ANG KC-135R; the KC-10 photo was from a Maine ANG KC-135R while in air refueling track AR-204 route over northwestern Maine.

Boston Logan International Airport, Terminal B parking garage, 6th floor. Before expansion added more gates and clutter to the ramp area during the late 1990s, this location yielded a great venue to photograph domestic and international aircraft from above.

Boston Logan International Airport, 16th floor observation deck. Through the Airline Deregulation Act years, the 16th floor of the Logan Air Traffic Control Tower was a public observation deck… from Central Parking, one took the elevator up 16 stories to look down upon airport operations. Sometimes the windows were dirty, or sunshine was quite bright, but the vantage point was fantastic with a medium-ranged telephoto lens!


Orient Heights, Massachusetts: Boston’s Constitution Beach. When Logan’s Runway 22 Left and Right are in operation, this is a great spot for photography. There are even small cabanas with benches to keep you in the shade during the heat of the day.

Edwards Air Force Base, southeast side of the main runways. During air shows in the 1990s and early 2000s, media members were occasionally invited to photograph participants from the opposite side of the base… from the so-called South Base side. The main air show ramps were a great distance away from the main runways, but this was quite close to the action. The South Base is also home to the pit where the Bell X-1 was mated to its B-29 mothership for Chuck Yeager’s sound barrier-breaking flight.

London Heathrow Airport’s old Observation Deck. Before 2004, one could go onto the roof tops of Heathrow’s Queen’s Terminal (aka: Terminal Two) for a grand view of the busy airport’s Runway 27 Left. Sadly, this location is now closed, and not duplicated today.

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport has a great outdoor observation deck, sometimes known as the “Panoramaterras”. Again, it is multiple stories above the parking gates and ramps, so a great view looking down from above is afforded.

Eielson Air Force Base’s old air traffic control tower. The old tower, attached to the “Thunderdome” hangar, was once known to house one of the tallest elevators in the State of Alaska. Although it closed after a more modern facility was built, the old tower was occasionally used by base Public Affairs officials during Red Flag Alaska large scale exercises. The outside deck was an awesome place to photograph departing participants against a unique background.

Geneseo, New York – National Warplane Museum’s grass runway. During their “Greatest Show on Turf” events, spectacular photos of warbirds on the grass runway were easy to capture. The cornfield in the background wasn’t always there, but this year’s photo was definitely enhanced by it, I think.

Gravelly Point Park, Washington DC. Just to the north of the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, this location is very close to the touchdown point for aircraft arriving from the north.

John F Kennedy International Airport control tower, Jamaica, Queens New York City, New York. One week before it was due to open to replace an old tower, I was offered the opportunity to photograph a series of domestic and international airliners for an FAA training package from the new control tower at KJFK. My facility routinely controlled Concorde flights to/from Europe, and this photo portrayed the elegant design that a blip on a radar scope couldn’t show.

Quonset Point, Rhode Island, Davisville Road under the approach lights. During the arrival day(s) of the Rhode Island International Air Shows, photography at the approach end of the runway was up close and personal as the jets passed only a few hundred yards above you. A wide-angle lens makes the photos look further away than the jets actually were.

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport once had a Terminal 2 and a parking garage on top, and one could spend all day looking down upon the airliners… and taking photos. The building and photo access is long gone today.

On the ramp, Abbotsford, British Columbia’s Air Show. During the thawing of the Cold War, the Soviet Union/Russia displayed numerous jet and prop-driven planes at this show. The mighty Antonov-225, MiG-31 and Sukhoi SU-27s attracted crowds, and the layout of the airport featured majestic Mount Baker as a backdrop – still snow-capped in August. Access to the foreign aircraft was spectacularly close too.

London, Ontario International Air Show. Now rebranded as Airshow London, the event was a major draw for international military aircraft in the 1980s and 1990s. The 1988 show featured over two dozen F-4 Phantoms celebrating 30 years of the Phantom II. The radar dome on the east side of the main runway is contained in countless photos of aircraft moving around the airport’s tarmacs. The early Photographer’s Tours allowed access on the Friday arrival day and was a favorite event to capture military aircraft closer than what was normally allowed.

Simsbury, Connecticut Fly-In. The small airport in north-central Connecticut hosts a fundraising fly-in every September. Spectators can get very close to the aircraft, although it is safe and orderly. The Heublien Tower on nearby Talcott Mountain serves as an unlit beacon to the south of the single runway.

Titusville Airport, Florida, at the Valiant Air Command’s TICO Air Show. During the 1980s and 1990s, the VAC’s C-47 Tico Belle was used as a photo ship for media photographers. The large cargo door was removed and a cargo net securely fastened to the door frame. This allowed large holes with which to photograph through; aircraft holding for their turn in front of the crowds took turns next to the Belle for eager photographers. This is the Sherman Aircraft Sales’ Ha-1112 Buchon one year.

Radom Airfield, Poland Air Show. The air shows at one of Poland’s military training airfields boast of world-wide participation of military aircraft in attendance and has a neat bleacher seating arrangement set up for photography. The aircraft are sometimes too close to the stands for pictures, but being that close to operating jet fighters like this Czech Air Force JAS-39 Gripen makes up for the occasional missed opportunity.

Owls Head, Maine; Owls Head Transportation Museum. Tucked away on one side of Rockland, Maine’s Knox County Regional Airport, the Museum operates a large group of original and replica rarities, like this original Fokker C.IVa. The low trees near the rocky Maine coastline add to the setting, as does the grass runway… note the tail skid instead of a tire.

Anchorage, Alaska, West Access Road just past the Point Woronzof Park. One can stand on a small hill at the end of one of the main runways at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and watch a dizzying queue of rare domestic and numerous international air freighters arrive and depart.

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Wittman Regional Airport, Oshkosh Wisconsin. The world’s largest collection of aircraft and aviators unite each year at the EAA’s headquarters to celebrate flight. Truth be told that it is an aviation and pilot-friendly gathering, and access around so many aircraft is not limited except in the movement areas and runways. Aircraft usually have the right of way over spectators and the marshalling ground crews are well respected for their safe operation at the event. The photographic opportunities are endless.

Manchester Boston Regional Airport, Manchester, New Hampshire. The approach end to Runway 24 at Manchester has a small commercial building to its north. The parking lot offers a limited but satisfying overlook to the runway’s “piano keys” and “numbers”.

Imperial Hill, Clutter’s Park, El Segundo, California. Named after local Councilman Jim Clutter, who resisted many attempts to enlarge the LAX airport into his neighborhood. With a long lens, the southern pair of runways are in view with just a few objects in the way of great photos.

Lake Hood Seaplane Base, Anchorage, Alaska. Next to the Alaska Department of Transportation building, there’s a waterway that serves as a water taxiway and “runway” for seaplanes… there’s even a picnic table overlooking the area. Great access to old and new general aviation and commercial planes on floats.

Hanscom Air Force Base, Bedford Massachusetts on top of the old DC Hangar. Media access was once allowed on top of this many-stories-tall hangar, which afforded a birds-eye view of the ramp during the yearly air show. No longer an air show venue due to urban sprawl (nearby I-95 accidently became a huge parking lot for an hour when any jet teams flew too); the view was unobstructed but at the end of a long climb up some old stairs.

RAF Fairford, U. K.; the Royal International Air Tattoo. My favorite event at the Air Tattoos of the late 1990s was to take a double decker bus tour of the grounds on the final trip of the day – on the show’s last arrival day of Friday. The bus would wind past literally hundreds of military aircraft parked for the huge show, and while on the top deck you were some 15 or 20 feet off of the ground. A perfect perch, although the bus was moving most of the time and a fast shutter speed was needed!

John F Kennedy International Airport, Jamaica, Queens New York City, New York. Baseball player Lefty Gomez is cited by many that he said “I’d rather be lucky than good”. I was very lucky while occupying a window seat while departing JFK airport in a New York Helicopter Sikorsky S-58T. Our departure route took us over this Concorde while we turned towards LaGuardia Airport… it was pushing back for its own departure. I’d never been able to take this photo unless I had this “location, location, location” !

Ken Kula

Assignment and Content Editor, writer and photographer A New Englander all of my life, I've lived in New Hampshire since 1981. My passion for all things aviation began at a very early age, and I coupled this with my interest of photography during college in the late 1970s. I spent 35 years in the air traffic control industry, and concurrently, enjoyed my aviation photography and writing adventures, which continue today. I've been quite fortunate to have been mentored by some generous and gifted individuals. I enjoy contributing to this great site and working with some very knowledgeable and equally passionate aviation followers.

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