I arrived at the Days Inn Miami International Airport at around 1AM, and after finishing and posting the post for the day, I set three alarm clocks and went to sleep. Some hours later, shortly after six, I woke up.
After some more minutes in the bed, I dressed up and prepared my camera bag – this was my first day of spotting at Miami!
I went to the hotel’s breakfast room at 7AM, had a couple of toasts, and headed out.
The First Morning at “El Dorado”
Just as imagined, what I consider to be the best spot at Miami airport – “El Dorado” – was just a five minute walk away from the hotel. From there, all action on runway 09 is photographable. The runway is predominantly used for landing, although some cargo flights use it for departure as well.
When I got to the spot at around 7:30AM, there was already a pair of spotters – as it later turned out, they were visiting from Hamburg in Germany. At this point, the sun was covered by clouds – but unlike the forecast that bugged me for many days before departing, the weather was looking promising!
Sure enough, couple of minutes later, just before catching my first Miami approach shot, the sun came out. The aircraft that had the honor of passing in front of my lens was an Aero Union A300 classic – not a bad start.
Next was an American Eagle Embraer. Both American Airlines and American Eagle have significant presence at the airport. A variety of aircraft types including Embraers, Boeing 737s, and Airbus A319s arrived throughout my time at the spot.
The highlight among the American aircraft was definitely a 737 in the AirCal retro livery.I was also happy to see some 737s and 757s in American’s previous, bare metal, livery.
While American Airlines dominated throughout the day, there was also plenty of other traffic.
The main reason of my visit to Miami was the South American and Caribbean traffic it is famous for. The first from this category to arrive after the Aero Union was a PAWA Dominicana MD-83. This was followed by arrival of one of the highlights of the trip – a SBA Airlines Boeing 767.
There were many more movements by both major airlines from the region such as Avianca, Copa, LAN Chile, as well as minor and rarer ones such as Cayman Airways and Caribbean Airlines.
Throughout the day, I could also photograph plenty of cargo traffic given that Miami is the largest international cargo gateway in the United States. The first one of those was a departure of a LAN Cargo Boeing 767. As at that point, I was still not used to the spot, I run to the fence to get a clean shot when walking would have sufficed. That sent my iPhone flying straight onto the ground, breaking the screen. Well, lesson learnt…
Other departing cargo traffic included a Cathay Pacific 747-8 and a Tampa Cargo A330 among others. For me, the highlight of the cargo departures was an unmarked bare metal 767 operated by LAN Cargo.
Several cargo aircraft of US companies arrived and departed during the day as well. These included an ABX Air 767-200, an Amerijet 767-300, and an Atlas Air 747-400.
While it was sunny most of the day, perhaps the most (and only) disappointing moment of the trip was when a KF Cargo DC-10 arrived. I spotted it on FlightRadar, and got very excited. Of course, it was sunny until the aircraft passed by, then the sun was covered by clouds as the aircraft passed by, and finally, the sun was out again as the aircraft was taxiing to the cargo terminal. Can’t have it all, I guess!
In the afternoon, the American traffic was complemented by aircraft from Europe. Around 1:30PM, the first of them – a KLM Cargo 747-400 – arrived. This was followed by other European airlines including Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, and TUI Airlines Belgium.
Besides the above, non-AA American airlines could be seen as well – including an Eastern Air Lines 737-800 (what a beautiful livery!), a Delta Air Lines MD-88, and a United 737. There was also an Air Canada Rouge A321.
After about seven hours of almost non-stop stay at “El Dorado,” I decided to try the second main spot at Miami – “the holes.” As I did not have a car, I used Uber. It only took a couple of minutes for the driver to arrive to pick me up, and ten minutes and 6.5 dollars later, I was at the new location.
A Not So Successful Afternoon at “the Holes”
While the spot itself was great – it offered views of the northern runway complex – when I arrived there, there was too much heat haze for any shots of aircraft on or taxiing to runways 8L and 8R. The cross runway, 12, was not getting much use – perhaps due to the strong wind that day.
At this spot, I was more successful on days 2 and 3 when I learned how to overcome another issue of the spot – cut off landing gears. On the first day, I was only able to get a couple of decent, sunny and non-heat-hazy, photos with more-or-less uncut landing gear.
Those included a trio of American Airlines Boeing heavies – 767-300, 777-200, and 777-300 – taxiing for departure from runway 8R. From the international movements, it was a LATAM 767 and an SAS A330 doing the same.
The two movements on runway 12 – which is fairly close to the fence and as such not affected by heat haze – that happened during the increasingly rarer moments of sunshine were an American Eagle Embraer and an American Airlines 737-800.
Even though the photo conditions were not ideal, I stayed at the spot until sunset when I decided to call an Uber again to take me to my hotel. After getting cancelled by the first drive as it was too far for him, another driver decided to come pick me up. Unfortunately, he could not find me, and after an angry call, cancelled the ride as well. The third driver did not speak any English – he passed his phone to his son whose first question was: “Do you speak Spanish?” Unfortunately, I do not, and so I was out of my luck again.
On the fourth attempt, however, I was able to get a driver to pick me up at the spot and take me back to my hotel for a well deserved rest after my first, awesome, day in Miami.