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Plane Spotting Around McCarran International Airport
Plane Spotting, Aircraft Around Las Vegas
McCarran International Airport

McCarran International Airport (LAS) is a busy airport located adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip in the south-central part of the Las Vegas Valley (map below). McCarran is among the busiest airports in the world, supporting some 50 million passengers per year (about 130,000 per day). With so much traffic, McCarran is a great airport for plane spotting (area map and site map).

Airport administration supports plane spotting to a degree, with a designated Plane Viewing Area on the south side of the airport (map below) adjacent to Runways 25L and 25R (the east-west runways along Sunset Road). This site brings plane spotters quite close to the action, but a tall chain-link fence inhibits photography. Some people bring tall ladders so they can photograph over the fence. One guy mounted a ladder in the back of his pickup so he could see over the fence. Security seems to accept this, as long as the ladder is a few feet back from the fence. The Plane Viewing Area is closed from 1 AM to 5 AM.

Fortunately, there are several other place to photograph aircraft. While photographing aircraft, I have been approached by security and the police at some of these sites, but I have never been run off. Perhaps the easiest off-airport place to spot landing planes is along Sunset Road east of the official Plane Viewing Area. There are business along the south side of Sunset with parking areas and parking lots directly under the approach path that provide great views of passing aircraft. Sitting on the grass in the shade of trees at Sunset Park is a relaxing place to watch aircraft. On the north side of the airport, the intersection of Tropicana and Paradise is good for spotting planes that are using Runways 19L and 19R (the northeast-southwest runways).

Unapproved on-airport plane spotting areas include the southwest corner of the parking garage, the grassy knoll along the north edge of the parking lot at the Signature Terminal, and outside the fences by the Sundance Heliport.

There are several aviation exhibits inside the main terminal buildings. A single display case is located near the check-in counters, and the Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum is located above baggage claim. Here, more than 30 display cases and a short video presentation chronicle local aviation history and national events that affected aviation in Las Vegas. Both of these are outside the security zone.

McCarran International Airport McCarran International Airport
McCarran International Airport McCarran International Airport
McCarran International Airport McCarran International Airport
McCarran International Airport
Photo shot through the fence
McCarran International Airport
Photo shot through the fence
McCarran International Airport McCarran International Airport
McCarran International Airport
View through the fence from the official plane viewing area.
McCarran International Airport
Display at the official plane viewing area.
McCarran International Airport
Southwest jet landing along Sunset Road.
McCarran International Airport
Great view of Continental jet from Sunset Road.
McCarran International Airport
View southwest from the parking garage.
McCarran International Airport
Small exhibit at check-in.
McCarran International Airport
Entrance to the Signature Terminal.
McCarran International Airport
View through the fence at the Signature Terminal.
McCarran International Airport
View over the fence at the Signature Terminal.
McCarran International Airport
Sundance Heliport.
McCarran International Airport
View over the fence at Sundance.
McCarran International Airport
Helicopter taking off from Sundance.
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Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 130917

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