In my At the Airport column on USATODAY.com this month, I offer a run-down of airport observation decks around the country. I wanted to write about this because, while a lot of the amenities getting rolled out at airports these days are designed to make travelers forget they’re in an airport terminal, observation decks are all about airports, airplanes, and the magic of flight.
Unfortunately, a lot of airports that used to have official observation decks have shut them down. But here’s a round-up of some that still exist:
Minneapolis International Airport (MSP) MSP has an observation deck post-security on Concourse D, in Terminal 1. Built decades ago, the enclosed observation deck is only accessible via a set of stairs, but those who find their way up there are rewarded with great views in all directions.
Years ago, when BWI was known as Friendship International Airport, there was an outdoor observation deck. Today there’s an enclosed Observation Gallery on the upper level of the airport, in the pre-security area between Concourses B and C. In addition to great views of airfield activities, there are rocking chairs, a children’s play area, and several exhibits related to aviation, including the nose cone, cockpit, landing gear and other sections of a Boeing 737-200 aircraft.
Albany International Airport (ALB) A pre-security observation area on the 3rd level of the terminal offers a panoramic view of both airport runways, all three wings of the terminal and, on a clear day, the southern Adirondack Mountains. A live feed of the chatter from the air traffic control tower is piped in and the airport’s art gallery is adjacent.
Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) At the Albuquerque airport, the observation deck is located post-security, between the two concourses. Equipped with bench seating, leather couches and chairs, this area offers travelers great airfield views as well as views of the Manzano Mountains and the Rio Grande.
Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) At Gerald Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, MI., there’s an enclosed observation deck, pre-security, that overlooks the airport runways.
Tri-Cities Regional Airport (TRI) in Tennessee has an open-air deck, located pre-security, on the mezzanine level of the airport. The deck looks out over the airfield, Boone Lake, and off to the Appalachian Mountains.
Vancouver International Airport (YVR) opened a new observation area in July 2009 with floor-to-ceiling windows, complimentary telescopes, interactive kiosks, and several other amenities. At the end of September, the observation deck on top of Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport will reopen. Like a lot of observation decks around the country, LAX had closed this area after 9/11.
Do you have a favorite airport observation deck or place to go outside the airport to watach plane? If so, please tell us about it.