Spotting During UN Week? Here's What You Need To Know

As mentioned previously, New York's annual UN Week is coming up next week. That makes this weekend the single best weekend of the year for planespotting at JFK in terms of aircraft movements. Thinking about coming to JFK for the first time this weekend? Here are a few pointers to help you along.

What to Wear

The beautiful autumn weather this time of year in New York City, coupled with JFK's waterfront location, can make for a widely varied temperature range over the course of a full day of planespotting. Early mornings this week have been in the mid-forties with highs in the mid seventies. Add in the coastal breeze that is sometimes present and can be quite strong, and your best option is to dress in layers. That way you can add or remove clothing as needed to stay comfortable throughout the day. Since there are some showers in the forecast, some light rain gear is also highly recommended.

Where to go

Unlike some airports where the best planespotting locations remain consistent, at JFK this is not the case. Locations here are totally dependent on the runways in use and time of day, with most locations only being suitable for one or two if the eight possible runways. Most, though not all of the places that we use are listed in NYCAviation's Planespotting Guide for JFK, so it is useful to read through that so you have a general idea of where to go once you know which runways are in use. The large numbers of spotters that come out for this weekend make it easy to follow the crowd if you're unfamiliar with the area. To find the crowd this weekend, the easiest way is probably to follow myself and NYCAviation on Twitter, and to use the hashtag #UNGAspotting. We will be updating where we are and what we're seeing throughout the day.

What to Bring

In addition to your camera, binoculars, scanner, and other planespotting equipment, there are a several other items that you should consider bringing along, three of which I consider to be must-haves. First off, all of the locations are out in the open, and most have little in the way of shade available. Therefore, sunscreen is a must-have item. Apply it early and often and for the sake of the photographers around you, please avoid spray-on sunscreen. Even more important is insect repellant. Several spots are very near to marshland, and the various biting insects can make you uncomfortable very quickly.  The final item that I consider to be a must-have is plenty of drinking water. I typically carry a 70 ounce Camelback with me and it is usually empty by the time I head home.
In addition to those three must-have items, there are a few more thinks that I like to have with me. Near the top of my list here is a fold-up camp chair. Not only does it let me get off my feet, it makes for an excellent "planespotting central" where I can put my bags and scanner. I also like to have a few snacks such as granola bars in my bag. While a couple places that we use have food readily available nearby, the majority do not. It's good to have something to tide you over so you don't miss the 747-SP that will inevitably land while you're on a food run. Finally, I always make sure to have plenty of extra batteries and empty memory cards with me for everything: I carry close to a dozen rechargeable AAs for my scanner and as a backup for my camera, a spare camera battery, and a rechargeable USB battery pack or two for my phone. Nothing ruins a day faster than running out of juice for your devices, so I take out plenty in the way of rechargeable insurance.