Sunday, June 7, 2009

Introduction to PBIA - Palm Beach International Airport

With the weather this week not playing at all with the ability to spot and a lot of things going on like my son's Pre-K graduation, I'm again forced to go to a back up topic. A little while ago, I gave an introduction to Hollywood/Ft Lauderdale International Airport - where I spend a great deal of my spotting time during the week. My actual home airport (about 10 minutes drive) is Palm Beach International Airport. This is where I spend my spotting time when at home - weekends and holidays.

The airport is located a few miles south west of the center of the city of West Palm Beach. It is bordered by Australian Ave which becomes Congress Ave on the east, Military Trail on the west, Belvedere Road on the north and Southern Boulevard on the south. There is really only one official spotting/viewing location and that is a viewing park very similar to the one in Ft Lauderdale. It is located on the south side of the airport just off the perimeter road that runs parallel to Southern Boulevard. However, I have also spotted in a couple of other locations and been successful in some good shots. From the viewing park, you look north across the main runway 9L/27R towards the terminal.

There is a smaller second runway (that is currently undergoing discussions on lengthening and widening to a commercial runway) that handles small propeller driven aircraft - that is 9R/27L.

From the viewing park, the typical pictures that will be taken will be for runway 9L, departures to the east, similar to this Continental B737-500.

Also taken from this spot for the 9L departures will be all the biz-jets (and there are PLENTY) of them at PBIA taxiing from some of the stands out to the runway.

Typically, if the operations are landing/taking off to the west, this isn't too good a spot as due to the usual heat haze that exists around the Palm Beach airport, the pictures suffer from the same heat haze. With the easterly operations at PBIA however, the viewing park doesn't allow for landing/approach shots at all. There used to be the most amazing restaurant located next to Flight Safety International that has unfortunately closed. However, the parking for the old restaurant still exists and I have had some luck, on quiet weekends in getting some landing shots from here, as seen with this Sun Country B737-800.

To the west of Military Trail as some roads that travel west/east and a couple of them run perfectly parallel to the approach for 9L. There unfortunately is no real place to park so parking for long periods of time is not really a possibility. However, I have managed to catch some quick approach shots from these side roads, as with this US Airways Pittsburgh Steelers logo jet.
As noted above, when the operations are westerly, there is no really good spot next to the airport that allows for decent shots. However, to the east of Australian Ave/Congress Ave is the Airport Hilton. It does have a lovely big parking lot and I've sat there for short periods of time to catch some arrivals, as shown with this Kalitta Charters II B727-200F (which is a frequent visitor to PBIA in November through May with the whole equestrian circuit that moves to the Palm Beach area).

The final spot that I have had pretty good success with has been on the top of the parking garage at PBIA. This is right above the terminals and affords good photography access to the ramps and the active runway. The only downside is that the photography window on top of the garage is very small. It can get very top lit very quickly and as with the westerly operations on the other side of the field, heat hazed very quickly as well. It does however tend to lead to some good opportunity shots, as with these three Delta MD-80's that I caught lined up one day.

A final note about PBIA - always expect the unexpected! A very frequent visitor to PBIA is Donald Trump with his Mar-a-largo mansion being close by.

But, there can be some amazing sights to be seen. Unfortunately no picture, but on a couple of occasions I have seen the large Russian Antonov AN-124 Ruslan's in PBI. Earlier this year, Vice President Biden made a weekend trip to PBI which brought in Air Force Two.

But, most of all, with all the bizjet traffic into PBIA, you can see all sorts of different types of bizjets - from the Gulfstreams (as above) to the old B737-200's

Hopefully, I've been able to give a little insight into PBIA and the happenings at the airport. Hopefully, this week the weather will improve a little for some shots at FLL and maybe even some back at PBIA and another week behind the camera lens will be done....

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