The Memphis airport is not very aviation enthusiast-friendly. Several people have reported being hassled by police and airport authorities for taking pictures. The best place to watch planes was the old residential area near Airways Blvd. and Shelby Dr. Several years ago the City purchased all of the homes on the streets in the shaded box on the map because of noise complaints about FedEx’s heavy jets operating at night. The homes were removed and the vacant land was a great place to watch planes takeoff and land. The airport then installed “no parking” signs everywhere, along with aggressive enforcement, because apparently airport management does not like airplane enthusiasts.
Another area which gives a very close view of the aircraft is along Louis Caruthers Dr. (see map). This road leads from Shelby Dr. to the Airport Postal Facility and some warehouses. If aircraft are taxiing to runway 36L they will pass very close to this road. I was able to shoot some great pictures from here and a representative from the Airport says photos are allowed from public access roads, and this appears to be a public access road. Photographing traffic on the west runway from this road would be best in the morning.
Some people have had success taking pictures from the Memphis airport parking garage (see map). There is a limited view of the center runway but the airport authority seems to be ok with people watching from there. Both this and the off-airport Airways Blvd. areas would be best photographed in the afternoon.
Another spot that has come to my attention is the cell phone waiting lot. Take the John McGehee Pkwy exit from Winchester Blvd. (see map) and follow the signs on the right. It is just off the end of runway 18R and has a good view of aircraft landing. Photography would be best in the morning as you’ll be facing west, and you’ll probably need a long lens for small aircraft.
Delta is the largest operator for passenger traffic here. Southwest recently added service to Memphis. Other airlines include United, American, and American Eagle. The traffic is mostly regional jets but FedEx flies the DC10, MD11, and Boeing 777 jets. There are no international passenger airlines operating here anymore. Most FedEx departures are at night but many arrivals are in the late afternoon.