Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
Click the map to go to Google Maps satellite view of this airport
Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is the 3rd busiest airport in the United States (2019). It is 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 with so many different traffic patterns, 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 called Rosemont Marketplace 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.
Just a bit south of this area past the I-90 overpass at the corner of Mannheim & Higgins Rd is another spot in the McDonald’s parking lot. You can get a decent view of landing traffic approaching 27R.
Another spot that used to be good 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 a couple of office buildings and the Wally Park Airport Parking lot. 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 28R; however, this runway is not used much for landings anymore. If they’re taking off on 14L they’ll be making a left turn directly over this area and 10L departures would fly out over this spot.
Other spots that have emerged in recent years include the parking lots of the Schiller Park Metra transit station on Ruby St. and the Gate Gourmet recruiting office on Montrose Ave., both of which may offer photo opportunities for traffic landing on runway 28C.
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 few really good spots and depending on the weather, air traffic may not be flying over those areas on any given day.