Best places for planespotting
Since the dawn of aviation, people have looked up to the skies to watch planes flying overhead. Planespotting has become the hobby of millions around the world, thanks to official and unofficial areas where people tend to gather to track and watch planes from gliders to the Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
Whether you're a die-hard aviation enthusiast or just one who enjoys watching planes, below are seven great spots across America to look at and photograph planes above.
Washington Dulles International Airport
This international hub airport, 28 miles outside of the nation's capital, is well known for its embrace of plane spotters. Occasionally, the airport invites people, along with media, to special events with escorted access to the airport's four runways for the ultimate viewing experience. But there are also two other great spots to watch the parade of domestic and international jets taking off and landing at Dulles. The first place is the roof of the Daily Garage 2 parking lot on the north side of the facility. The second place is in the parking lot at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Pay $15 to enter the lot and plane spot outside and visit the museum to see planes including an Air France Concorde and the prototype of the Boeing 707 jet.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Arlington, Virginia's Gravelly Point Park, managed by the National Park Service, is one of the favorite plane spotting stops in the world. It earned this reputation because of how low aircraft fly on their final approach to the airport's Runway 1/19, surrounded by views of national monuments. Be sure to bring headphones or earbuds, because it gets really loud. The park also has a boat dock, picnic areas and a walking/running path to enjoy. Other great places to spot are the marina at Daingerfield Island and the balconies at the end of the airport's Terminals B and C.
Los Angeles International Airport
Kill two birds with one stone here. Go to In 'N Out Burger, located on the east side of LAX at the intersection of Sepulveda Blvd and West 92nd Street, grab a meal (get your hamburger animal style), sit at a table and watch the parade of planes landing at Runway 24R. Other spotter locations include the airport's iconic Theme Building's observation deck, Imperial Hill between Cypress and Sheldon Streets and Clutter Park in El Segundo at the intersection of Imperial Avenue and Sheldon Street.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Serious planespotters know all about the hidden spotting deck at Concourse D near the departure lounge. The bad news is you need a ticket or pass to get through airport security to enjoy it. But once there, spotters have stellar views of not only Concourses C, D and E, but also Runway 12L/30R. There are chairs around the deck for your comfort. If you can't get to the hidden deck, the airport also has a spotting area right next to FedEx's shipping center near the intersection of Runways 12R/30L and 4/22. The airport offers free parking, picnic tables and benches.
San Francisco International Airport
Bayfront Park, located on the edge of the San Francisco Bay at Highway 101 and Marsh Road, has great views of aircraft on their final approach to Runway 1R. There are unpaved trails, benches, restrooms and a limited amount of free parking. Other spotting areas include the airport's Airtrain stations, the Long Term and West Field parking garages and the Anza Fishermen Park.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
This airport is home to the Ron Gardner Aircraft Observation Area, located near the southwest corner of Perimeter Road on Southwest 39th Street. There's plenty of parking and most people sit in their cars to watch the parade of planes. The county's Aviation Department put in a solar-powered speaker system that allows visitors to hear conversations between pilots and the air traffic control tower, as well.
McCarran International Airport
Las Vegas is home to the Sunset Viewing Area, south of the airport off Sunset Road. It's the perfect place to view planes arriving on Runway 25L and taking off on Runways 25R 7L and 7R. Another bonus -- if you set your radio to FM 101.1, you can hear conversations between air traffic controllers and pilots. There are also viewing areas at the long term green triangle parking garage and the Jack In The Box restaurant on Las Vegas Boulevard.
If you go
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The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.
Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.
Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.
Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.
"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."
When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.
For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.
Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.
That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.
"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."
The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.
About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.
"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."
When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.
"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."
On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.
"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."
For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.