LAX Planespotting

Primed for photo ops on Imperial Hill, one of the world's top planespotting locations.
  • Primed for photo ops on Imperial Hill, one of the world's top planespotting locations.

Southern California airplane buffs and planespotters flock to Imperial Hill in El Segundo – a picturesque spot overlooking Los Angeles Int'l Airport.

This windy overlook at the corner of E. Imperial Ave. and Sheldon St. offers the aviation fan a panorama of the biggest, most noteworthy aircraft flying today.

Spring break for me meant a road trip up to the Hacienda Hotel in El Segundo. This charming accommodation was jam-packed with travelers, but I chose it for its close proximity to Imperial Hill, located just around the corner.

Once I reached "the Hill," I unloaded my camera equipment and set my gear up on an overhang to film some enormous planes and chew the fat with some of the regulars.

Imperial Hill is also known as "Clutter's Park," named after City Councilman Jim Clutters. There are benches, 25-cent telescopes, small tables and plenty of parking along the street in the residential neighborhood. It can get crowded on weekends, and when President Obama's Air Force One lands at LAX, viewers flock to gawk at the presidential spectacle.

Locals told me to go see the planes landing very close at the park across from the In & Out Burger on the north side of the airport. Westchester Park is a small triangular patch of grass immediately next to the airport. Monster 747s scream overhead as they land literally a few feet away.

College kids may want to let lose at the beach for spring break, but for this plane buff, Imperial Hill equals seasonal airplane nirvana.

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There's also a way cool, little aviation museum directly across the road from this plane-spotting site. The Flight Path Learning Center/Museum is at 6661 West Imperial Highway and adjacent to the LAX runway. Great exhibit and staff - wonderful way to get close-up views. They've airline memorabilia, research materials and the most friendly generous staff of volunteer aviation buffs you'd ever want to meet. Call (424) 646-7284 to check their hours.

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