Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the busiest airport in the world with regard to commercial aircraft movements and with regard to the number of passengers. In 2010 more than 89 million passengers travelled through Atlanta, resulting in more than 950,000 landings and take-offs. The majority of this traffic comes from two major carriers having a hub here: Delta Air Lines (including feeder airlines) and airTran Airways, but all major US carriers fly to Atlanta. There are relatively few foreign carriers when compared to for example JFK, LAX or Miami.
The airport has its roots in the 1920s, and was named Candler Field. After World War II, and thus a brief military period, The airport became known as Atlanta Municipal Airport. The development to its current size really began in the late 1970s under the administration of Mayor Maynard Jackson. In 1977 the construction of the four runways and mid-field terminal started. Named for former Atlanta mayor William Berry Hartsfield, who did much to promote air travel, William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport opened on 21 September 21 1980.
In May 2001, construction of a 2,700 m fifth runway (10–28) began. It was completed in May 2006. With this runway simultaneous approaches on three runways can be performed, ensuring the top ranking of Atlanta. In the meantime the Atlanta City Council voted to change the name to the current Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, in honour of former mayor Maynard Jackson, who died in June 2003.
The layout of the airport is quite simple: five parallel runways with the terminal area in between the two northern runways pairs. The terminal consists of a main building to the west, connected by an underground rail link with multiple satellites. North of all the runways is a small FBO and east of that the cargo aprons. Most maintenance hangars are immediately east of the terminal area, but there are also some in the north west corner and east of the taxiways connecting runway 10/28 to the rest of the airport.
The airport is about 10-15 km south of the city centre. Interstate 85 is the road to use out of town and from DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, but if you are coming from Fulton County-Brown Field you better use the I-285 ring road.
If you do not have a car, you can also travel to the airport by light rail. The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority or MARTA has four lines crossing the greater Atlanta area, with the two north-south lines terminating at the airport terminal.
Around the Airport
Probably the best spot of all for logging is the Renaissance Concourse Hotel in the northern part of the airport. The rooms form the sixth floor and up with balconies look out over runways 8L/26R and 8R/26L and the concourses. Rooms 1022 and 1025 are confirmed as having great views. Photography is possible with 200-400 mm on the north western most runway, but as you are facing south most of the day, you would better pick an overcast day.
2FBO & Cargo
The parking lots of Mercury Air Center and some small cargo buildings off Toffie Terrace allow part of the cargo aircraft and bizjets/props to be read. Photos are difficult to take, with the sun facing you most of the day, and a fence and handling equipment hampering you.
3Sewage Treatment Plant
This spot is at the entrance to a sewage treatment plant on Lake Mirror Road, just off the I-285 service road. This spot gives you a good view of traffic landing to the west (runway 27L) or taking off to the east (runway 9R). Photography of traffic can be done nearly all day.
4Taxiway to 10/28
With the opening of runway 10/28 some roads south of the airport have been cut off. The Airport Loop Road dead ends at the taxiways to and from this runway. The taxiways are right in front of you, with the fence descending to the tunnel. Any aircraft landing on runway 10/28 will have to pass this spot, so you will not miss any of them. Although partly obstructed by bushes, most aircraft landing or taking off on runway 9R/27L can also be read, as are some aircraft at the terminal.
You can take photos of taxiing aircraft here from about noon until sunset. This is only possible in south eastern direction; otherwise the fence will be in the way. A CRJ requires about 400 mm on the far taxiway.
Another spot is the parking lot of the Ruby Tuesday restaurant, with the entrance at Sullivan Road. It offers a good view of traffic departing from runway 27L. The sun is good for photography pretty much the whole day, but in summer until about 5 or 6 p.m. For 737s almost a full 300 mm is needed and for a 777 it's about 220 mm. Not the greatest spot but ok.
6South parking garage
Many people watch the traffic from the roof of the South Parking Garage (4th level). Good overview of runways 9L/27R and 9R/27L and part of the concourses. If traffic is operating to the east, planes will be taxiing to runway 9L and will pass directly in front of the garage. The down side is that - aside from the parking fee - you can expect to be approached by a security guard if you are taking pictures. They say it is not allowed, but from other's experience the Airport Operations Department does not have a problem with people photographing at this location. As it is facing south, the best time for taking pictures is in the late afternoons.
The newest runway 10/28 offers new photo opportunities for Atlanta, shown by this example MD-88 shot from spot 4.
|121.900||Atlanta Ground (8L/26R, 8R/26L)|
|121.750||Atlanta Ground (9L/27R, 9R/27L)|
|121.650||Atlanta Ground (10/28)|
|119.100, 125.325||Atlanta Tower (8L/26R, 8R/26L)|
|119.300, 123.850||Atlanta Tower (9L/27R, 9R/27L)|
|119.500||Atlanta Tower (10/28)|
|125.700||Atlanta Departure (8L/26R, 8R/26L)|
|135.700||Atlanta Departure (9L/27R, 9R/27L)|
|135.375||Atlanta Departure (10/28)|
|Atlanta Airport||Official website|
|Atlanta - Dekalb-Peachtree   subscribers only|
|Atlanta - Fulton County-Brown Field   subscribers only|
|Atlanta - Hartsfield-Jackson|
|Cartersville   subscribers only|
|Cobb County - McCollum Field   subscribers only|
|Robins AFB   subscribers only|