Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport (MKE)
Click the map to go to Google Maps satellite view of this airport
The Milwaukee airport is another good place for plane watching and photographing. The Airport Authority has built a couple of observation lots: the original and most popular one is on the north side, just off the end of runway 1L/19R, located just 2 miles east of the Layton Ave. exit from I-94. It has been here for years and is extremely popular with the locals – I have seen the lot nearly full on a nice day. You will get a closeup view of aircraft landing and holding short for departure on runway 19R. There’s a fence that will obstruct your view for photographing aircraft on the runway or taxiway but that issue can be solved with a small ladder or pickup truck. Also, the Milwaukee air traffic control tower audio comes through a radio station so you won’t even need a scanner. The only problem is that this runway isn’t used as often as the east-west runway (7R/25L). The newer observation lot is just off the south side of the approach end of runway 7L and will give you a good view of landing aircraft, but since it faces north photography is only good from fall through spring. To get here just take 6th St. north from College Ave. or south from Layton Ave. and follow it around to the south side of the end of runway 7R.
Another option is the top level of the parking garage but this spot faces south looking at runway 7R. You’ll need a long lens to photograph small planes on the runway and photos will be backlit except for a couple of hours before sunset from late spring to early fall.
The dominant airlines here are Southwest, along with Delta, Frontier, and several regional airlines. The only international service is from Air Canada Express to Toronto using a regional jet. This airport is also home to the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s 128th Aerial Refueling Squadron and they are out flying most days in the big KC135s. There is also a lot of business jet traffic here.
Traffic is fairly constant throughout the day and in the late afternoons it is not uncommon to see three or four planes lined up for departure right in front of you at the observation area. Definitely a great place for plane lovers and I highly recommend a visit here. This airport was named in honor of General William “Billy” Mitchell, one of the most famous Generals in the U.S. Army during World War I. He is often considered the father of the modern air force and was a Wisconsin native. The B-25 bomber was named after him and there is one on display at the entrance to the Milwaukee airport.