A Newcomer’s Perspective on SpotLAX2023

For 10 years now, I have been hearing about the SpotLAX events. Each year, I would end up sitting at home staring at all the pictures and reading about the events. It made me very envious! When the dates for  the 10th anniversary SpotLAX2023 event were posted, I realized that the time had come to actually attend the event.

ANA 787 in special R2D2 livery arriving during SpotLAX2023

The ANA R2D2 special livery was a highlight of Thursday’s pre-SpotLAX2023 arrivals.

I had only be to Los Angeles once before, and that was more than 10 years ago. During that trip, I had managed to spot at the Proud Bird Restaurant for a few hours. I remember just staring in amazement at all the different airlines and aircraft compared to what I was usually photographing. This time, I was going to make sure I took full advantage of the time I could take. So, I booked the very first flight leaving Thursday morning. With my flights booked months in advance, there was a great deal of waiting for the day to finally come. 

Finally, Thursday morning arrived. I left home at 4:30AM to head to Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport and the first flight of the morning on JetBlue to LAX. A 5½ hour flight only served to build up the excitement of getting there. Finally, there were those magic words from the cabin crew, “Welcome to Los Angeles where the local time is 9:20am and because we are early, there will be a 15-minute wait for our gate to open up”. Yes, every thrill must have a slight hiccup.

Hawaiian Airlines’ A321neo fleet making one of its only appearances during SpotLAX2023.

Before I knew it, I had retrieved my bags and picked up my rental car. Then, I embarked on the first day of abusing my camera shutter with masses of photographs. The rest of Thursday was spent meeting up with friends I had only talked to online but meeting for the first time in person, and making a lot of new friends that share the same passion as I do, aviation.

I also took a few hours on Thursday to check an item off my bucket list with a helicopter flight over the airport. Another great decision I made for the trip was to book a room at the H Hotel Los Angeles. The hotel has a deck on the top of the hotel specifically for viewing aircraft movements at LAX Airport. Getting a room on the same level as that deck also was a huge bonus. I could go from my room to the deck in under a minute! 

UPS MD-11 departing Ontario International Airport

This UPS MD-11F made the drive out to Ontario International Airport worthwhile.

After spending the rest of Thursday evening helping to prepare for the weekend’s events, it was off to bed. Friday morning I awoke just before dawn. A small group of us had decided to the drive out to Ontario International Airport. There, I would get what was possibly my last chance to photograph a UPS MD-11 before they are retired. While we were in the area, we also paid a visit to the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino.

Arriving back in Los Angeles and back to the hotel, there was the chance to meet up with lots and lots of people. Again, I was meeting people in person for the first time that I had spoken to for years.

The official opening of SpotLAX2023 was held on the top deck of the H Hotel. This was the first ever SpotLAX Opening Night Spotting Party. What a wonderful event that was. With the crew of Airline Videos Live broadcasting from the corner of the deck, 200 or so aviation enthusiasts gathered. There was food and drink, and many shared experiences and discussed all things aviation. Added to this was a raffle of amazing prizes that made some people, myself included, very happy when winning a prize. 

Saturday morning featured an event that has been running for one year longer than the SpotLAX events, Crankyflier’s annual Cranky Dorkfest. Picture this: 400 or so aviation enthusiasts gathered in the park located outside the famed Sepulveda In-n-Out burger. The crowd watches the arrivals and departures at LAX Airport, while talking shop with all sorts of aviation enthusiasts. This was again the opportunity to meet up with old friends not seen for years, and make new friends. And of course, I was able to indulge in some wonderful In-n-Out Burger food offerings.

The crowd at Cranky Dorkfest gathers to hear who won some of the wonderful raffle prizes that had been donated.

Later on, it was another afternoon of shooting hundreds of exposures at the top of the H Hotel. That then led to the annual SpotLAX dinner at the best restaurant location around the airport, The Proud Bird. There, I enjoyed another wonderful evening of eating, drinking, raffles and discussing all things aviation. 

Korean Air 747-8i approaching LAX

A Korean Air 747-8i is seen from the roof deck of the H Hotel durning SpotLAX2023.

Sunday morning arrived and it was time to check out of the amazing hotel that had been my base for the time in Los Angeles. Then it was time to head for donuts and coffee provided by JetTip. This was held at another iconic LAX spotting location: Clutters Park. In the plane spotting world, it is better known by the name Imperial Hill. Early clouds gave way to bright Southern California sunshine. The morning turned into a perfect photography day.

As the heat grew and heat haze popped in, people started to leave having enjoyed a wonderful weekend, while some of us headed back to Proud Bird Restaurant to enjoy the rest of the afternoon. All too soon it was time to shower, change and head to the airport myself for the redeye flight home. I do have to admit that by the end of Sunday, I was photographed-out and very ready to get home. 

Sunday afternoon at The Proud Bird saw more than just SpotLAX2023 attendees as many families came out to enjoy the ambiance there.

It was a most amazing and enjoyable weekend. I feel every aviation enthusiast should get to enjoy it at least once. A few more personal observations. Firstly, it is wonderful to see how many younger generation enthusiasts there are. From 4 years old all the way through teen years, young people were well represented at the event. They could be seen running from one corner of the roof deck to the other, trying to photograph everything. Secondly, the aviation community is one of the most giving and friendly communities that you can ever wish for. People were willing to help people all weekend. Finally, I am sure that I am going to see a lot of these wonderful people for many years to come!

About the Author

Mark Lawrence
Mark Lawrence is a NYCAviation staff member and a south Florida-based aviation fanatic. He has been around the industry since he was a small boy. Mark can be reached at [email protected]



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