Chicago – O’Hare Int’l Airport (ORD)

Chicago O'Hare Airport map

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Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is a large international airport that is one of the busiest in the world. It is also not an easy place to photograph planes at. There is a wide variety of international air traffic here, but only two decent areas to photograph from. And because there are so many runways and so many different directions planes can be taking off or landing from, it can be hit or miss whether you get any decent pictures at these spots.
One spot is on the north side of O’Hare Airport in the parking lot of a shopping center on Mannheim Rd. near Touhy Ave. If planes are landing on 22R, you’ll get a good view. If they’re taking off on 4L they’ll most likely be too high by this point. If traffic is landing on runway 27R you might get a good view but you’ll be facing south so photography will be difficult.
The other (and better) spot is further south on Mannheim Rd. on the east side of O’Hare Airport (see map). At the intersection of Mannheim and Lawrence Ave., make a left and another quick left onto Scott St. which only leads to the parking lot of the USG office building. There’s a dead end just past the parking lot, and many locals come here for the view. You will get an excellent view of planes landing on O’Hare’s runway 28 and if they’re taking off on 14L, they’ll be making a left turn directly over this area.
Both of these spots are best for photos late in the day since you face east/north, and the light is better from October thru April. On one occasion I did get a visit from the Police but they were friendly. The most common airlines at Chicago’s O’Hare airport are American and United along with their regional affiliates but O’Hare is also a major international gateway so there is a significant presence of international airlines from Europe, Asia, and the middle east.
The thing that makes it difficult especially if you are coming from another city to visit Chicago for the purpose of spotting/photography is it is hard to predict which runways will be in use at O’Hare. There are 7 active runways but only 2 really good spots and depending on the weather, air traffic may not be flying over those areas on any given day.

United 737 landing at O'Hare

Click for photos from the shopping center parking lot

United 737 landing at O'Hare

Click for photos from the USG Building spot

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