Posts: 6673
Joined: Wed Mar 22, 2000 12:26 pm

First Visit To DTW, Non-passenger

Wed Aug 16, 2000 6:38 am

Crazy as it seems, I drove from Cleveland, Ohio, all the way up to DTW last Saturday just to spot planes.

Someone at had recommended parking on the long-term Deck and that's where I headed first. Unfortunately it was 85-deg-F and I couldn't bear to stand up on top for more than 1/2 hour.

I took a good look around the airport after I went in and guzzled two bottles of orange juice. There is a relatively good ground transportation/shuttle system which allows anyone to get a ride from one part of the airport to another. The only drawback is that you have to go to certain places along the exterior of the building -- you can't just wave down the vans. On the other hand, that provides for smoother traffic.

My initial view of DTW was from that of a passenger and then my experience was limited to the middle and end portions of Concourse D. At the time I felt it was a very dark, cramped airport with a gross lack of seating and free space. Well, I found a little more space, in the main buildings connecting the different concourses. However, I'm sure a lot of passengers won't have enough time to sit down and enjoy the concession areas like I did.

Back to the Deck Parking area -- if you go all the way to the top (Level 6, don't miss it or there's no way back up the "Super Ramp") and park in Section 6e (as far as you can go from the Super Ramp), you get a good view of departing traffic on Rwys 3C/3R. You also can see arriving traffic on Rwy 27R. Rwy 27L is too far south of the Deck and arriving traffic is so far away that you need binoculars to appreciate it. By comparison, the departing traffic is either at or just beyond "wheels up." Unfortunately the Super Ramp blocks the view of Rwy 3L.

Since I was there only one day and the weather didn't change, I can't tell you about what Rwys 24C/L would have looked like, but since the ends are parallel to the Deck, it would probably be a great view.

While I was in the airport I spoke to a few different "green vest" customer service agents as well as three different shuttle drivers. One of the drivers, a woman who says she brings her kids to the airport to watch planes quite frequently, told me that the Green Lot would be a better place to park -- not only because it is slightly cheaper, but it is directly adjacent to Rwy 24C/3C. Come to think of it, with the shuttle service, you could park there and still go up on top of the Deck.

I also spent about an hour in the Berry International Arrivals Terminal. All of the international and charter flights arrive in that terminal for customs clearance. Most of those same carriers also reboard their aircraft in the same location; however, KLM and Northwest have the option of being towed next door to Concourse F. I saw a KLM 747-200(?) and a Northwest DC-10 towed over while I sat there. Unfortunately the view of Runway 3L/24R (12,000' and therefore the choice of the jumbo jets) is partially blocked so I only saw the jets just after "wheels up." IF the traffic was going in the opposite direction you would only be able to see the very beginning of the takeoff roll. The beginning of Runway 24R is south of the terminal.

My intention in making the trip to DTW was to see the larger jets that don't come in to CLE. I fulfilled that "mission" with two 747-400s (Northwest and British Airways), a 747-100 (Northwest), a 747-200 (KLM), an Airbus A-340-300 (Lufthansa), and multiple DC-10s (Northwest). I also saw lots of 757s (Northwest) and a Delta 767.

Of course there were lots of other aircraft as well. For the first time in memory I saw USAirways DC-9s (still in the old paint scheme). I'm glad I got to see them before they are all retired. I also got to learn how toidentify the Airbus 319/320 by engine sound (I'm a musician). It was also nice to see so many 727s.

All in all, it was worth the long drive. Although Northwest dominates DTW, there was enough variety of aircraft (including different series) to keep me quite fascinated. I'll have to plan another trip, hopefully a longer one which will include side trips to Willow Run and Detroit City Airports!

Up, up and away!

RE: First Visit To DTW, Non-passenger

Wed Aug 16, 2000 11:52 am

I see that you like dtw for spotting, well you should have or should in the future go all the way around the airport until you are right across from the L.C. Smith (blue glass) terminal. I think it is on Eureka/Wayne roads, right by the ford motor company, Nomads travel group hanger, and the old "executive terminal".
from here you can see several private planes for sports teams visiting or political (Bush/Chaney) type stuff. Over by the nomads hanger (Runway 9R/27L you can see smaller stuff take off and land (a-320's, DC9, f100, 757, 737) You also get a good view of i think its 21C. For an air to ground map, see

RE: First Visit To DTW, Non-passenger

Wed Aug 16, 2000 12:00 pm

I got my first shot at DTW 8/5 - two Saturdays ago. It was unintentional, I was supposed to be going CLE-DFW-LAS but those morons at AA's plane had a mechanical, and thanks to our trusty cellphone we rebooked on NW instead of getting stuck in DFW. Walked off of AA and onto NW. The DC9 flight CLE-DTW was great - you were at a perfect altitude, we saw everything, CedarPoint, Put-In-Bay, and a great overview of DTW before descending in and landing. Flying time was about 20 minutes. I'll post my trip report here too, I posted it in HotTalk a few days ago.

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Joined: Wed Feb 09, 2000 10:02 am

RE: First Visit To DTW, Non-passenger

Wed Aug 16, 2000 10:14 pm

That musta been pretty cool to see the islands and Cedar Point the best park in the world! -che
Posts: 839
Joined: Thu Aug 12, 1999 4:01 am

RE: First Visit To DTW, Non-passenger

Thu Aug 17, 2000 4:22 am

I;'m glad you liked DTW; my home airport.

Let me point out that there is no runway 24 at DTW. I think you are referring to runway 21, which is the opposite end of runway 3. DTW has five runways: 2 sets of parellels (3/21 and 9/27). There is a new midfield terminal under construction, which will open next spring I belive. It has over 70 gates, and will replace the old, ugly and cramped terminal occupied by Northwest now.

The best place to spot is the long term parking lot (not the deck), which is right next to Runway 3C/21C. The aircraft taxi right in front of you. Often times, the pilots will even wave, or flash their lights! They've done this for me many times. You can see pics taken from here on, just type in DTW as a keyword. Another good spotting place is the new extension of the A concourse, You get a good close view of taxiing aircraft, and a nice view of the runway 21C/3C. The F concourse is good spotting ground too. There is a perfect view of runway 21R/3L, and this concourse is where NW boards their 747s, and most of their DC-10s. I've been there when NW boards the Tokyo and Osaka flights almost simultaneously ... its quite a crowded site. I also want to point out that the internation terminal is an excellant place to photogra[ph arriving aircraft, landing on runway 21 Right. They fly right in front of you, almost at eye level. This is a great place to take pictures!!!

I hope you visit us again. Whn the new terminal opens next year, DTW will be a real show place! I love DTW, it is almost like a home to me.



RE: First Visit To DTW, Non-passenger

Thu Aug 17, 2000 12:12 pm

Do you really think DTW is that super? It is awful. The terminals are small, every gate area is sized for a CRJ, I watched a full flight to LAX load (757) and that was pure hell, not to mention those morons oversold the flight *BY 10*. I got to spend tons of time on DTW voluntarily, got $500 a head for the next flight to LAS. We were originally CLE-DFW-LAS on AA, but their gyro broke. The food court looks like a giant market - why in the hell is the ceiling so high? I only like a couple airports - DFW because of the space, LAS because it is very open and spacious, and CVG.
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Joined: Thu Aug 12, 1999 4:01 am

RE: First Visit To DTW: To CLe_tim

Fri Aug 18, 2000 2:14 am


You misunderstood: I specifically said that when the new 70 gate mid field terminal is open next spring, DTW will then be a beautiful airport. I also called the current Northwest facilty cramped and ugly. Please read more carefully.
From what you have written, it seems you have only seen a small portion of the entire airport. DTW is bad, but not aweful.


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