Aircraft Spotting At Raleigh-Durham International Airport

Aircraft spotting refers to the hobby of observing, tracking and photographing aircraft operations and, when done safely and responsibly, can be a great way for members of the public to experience the excitement of day-to-day operations at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority has adopted a set of rules for members of the public wishing to engage in plane spotting at RDU. These rules are designed to ensure the safety and security of all airport users, while also creating a friendly and inviting environment for members of the aircraft spotting community to enjoy this hobby.

Visitors to RDU may enjoy plane spotting on campus in two authorized locations: RDU’s Observation Park during open hours and atop the airport’s central parking deck. Please complete and submit the request form below if you plan to spot from the parking deck. (While permission is not required to visit and take photography at Observation Park, we always appreciate the heads-up.)

Aircraft Spotting Rules

  1. The Authority requires aircraft spotters to receive written approval from Airport Operations to spot from the top floor of the central parking deck by submitting an aircraft spotting form at least 48 hours prior to arriving at RDU. This notification must be accomplished by filling out the online form on this page that provides basic information about the individual(s) who will be engaged in aircraft spotting. The information contained in the notification will be made available to Airport Operations and Law Enforcement personnel. In the event this request cannot be accommodated, Airport Operations will notify the aircraft spotter who made the request (Note:you do not need to submit written notice to spot aircraft at Observation Park).
  2. Aircraft spotters will at all times remain in publicly accessible, non-secure areas of the airport. Aircraft spotters are not permitted to access areas of the airport that are restricted or require security access, unless under escort by properly badged Airport Operations or Law Enforcement personnel.
  3. Aircraft spotters shall at all times maintain courteous and respectful behavior towards all airport users and staff. Even when providing notification of their activity at RDU, aircraft spotters may be approached by RDU Operations or Law Enforcement personnel to inquire about their activity.  This is for the safety of all airport users, and may be in response to specific security matters or events that warrant such interaction.
  4. Aircraft spotters shall adhere to the directions of Airport Operations or Law Enforcement personnel. Due to the dynamic nature of a commercial airport such as RDU, there may be times where, for the safety of aircraft spotters and other airport users, spotting activity may be restricted or prohibited.
  5. Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles, whether for photography or other reasons, require written permission from the president and CEO prior to use at RDU in accordance with Airport Rules and Regulations.
  6. The Airport Rules and Regulations shall take precedent over any and all rules referenced on this page, should they be in conflict.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will RDU Law Enforcement approach me if I have filled out the online notification form?

Possibly. While the online form is intended to provide RDU Operations and Law Enforcement with information identifying aircraft spotters at RDU, there may be times when Operations or Law Enforcement personnel need to reach out to spotters directly.  Do not be alarmed – this is normal in the day-to-day operation of a dynamic environment like RDU. The safety and security of everyone at RDU is our number-one priority.

Where should I go to get the best pictures?

RDU authorizes plane spotting in two locations at the airport: Observation Park and the top of the ParkRDU Central garage between Terminals 1 and 2. Both locations offer great views of RDU’s airfield.

How can I get more information about aircraft activity at RDU?

Websites such as can provide you with scheduled flight information. RDU also benefits from an active aircraft spotter community connected via social media, which allows spotters to engage with others actively involved in aircraft spotting at RDU.

How do I notify the Airport if I spot anything that seems out of the ordinary, or presents a safety or security concern?

RDU appreciates aircraft spotters notifying the airport of any unusual or potentially dangerous activity.  Please contact the Raleigh-Durham International Airport Communications Center at (919) 840-7510 for non-emergency matters. For emergency matters, call the Airport Communications Center at (919) 840-2111, or dial 911.

Can I submit photos to the airport for official use?

We love sharing great aircraft photos on our website and with our social media followers, including on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Aircraft spotters may submit photos for consideration to Please include non-watermarked images along with how you would like to be credited for attribution. The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority reserves the right to use photo submissions for commercial and non-commercial usage with attribution.