Aircraft Spotting Pages - Dover AFB, Delaware

 

This particular map comes from Google Earth, with modifications made to show the different spots around Dover AFB.

Spotting Locations

Dover AFB is easily accessible from Delaware Routes 1 and 9.  Keep in mind that if you are coming from Baltimore, Philadelphia, Wilmington, or points north, that there is a variable toll on Delaware Route 1.  There are two tolls on Route 1, and you must pay regardless if you go north from the base or south to the base.  As of September 2015, the tolls are $1 each during the week and $3 each on weekends (Delaware charges $3 between 7 PM Friday and 11 PM Sunday).

Spot A is located at the Air Mobility Command Museum and is the only recommended spotting location for Dover AFB.  The museum has a unique collection of transport and tanker aircraft, with several fighters and a helicopter or two mixed in with the outdoor displays as well as a fantastic hangar with several aircraft inside.  The museum can be accessed off Delaware Route 9 and has its own exit a few miles south of the exits for Dover AFB.  Admission to the AMC Museum is free and it is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm while closed every Monday and select holidays.  I highly recommend that while you visit the museum and the spot that you also give some sort of donation to the museum, whether it be buying something from the gift shop or just a traditional cash donation.

There are multiple locations where you can view nearly all Dover AFB operations, especially with activity arriving and departing off Runway 1 as well as Runway 32.  Know that for the most part, you will have a chain-link security fence in most, if not, all of your photos and video.  You can get creative and photograph through the links and hope you get a decent shot of someone arriving or departing from any of the runways but you will have to contend with heat haze.  To get aircraft departing off 19 and 14 should be no problem as they will be well above the height of the fencing.  Aircraft parked on the ramp adjacent to the museum can be photographed and in some cases, through the links of the fence.

There is also a control tower at the museum that can enable some amazing photo opportunities from inside the tower.  However, the tower is rarely open for tours and you would be photographing through glass.

DO NOT CLIMB on any of the display aircraft!  I'd recommend at least 300 mm for all photos.  Remember that SPOT A IS NOT AVAILABLE WHEN THE MUSEUM IS CLOSED, so take that into consideration before you go out and be sure that you are out of there before 4:00 PM when the museum closes.  The museum typically makes closing announcements starting around 3:15 PM.

Example photos below include the main ramp as seen from the museum, aircraft parked on the adjacent south ramp, a C-5M Super Galaxy taxiing to Runway 1, and a C-17 departing from Runway 14.

 

 

 

Spot B is off of Delaware Route 9 and is good for arrivals onto Runway 32 as well as departures off of 14 As of 2013 there are currently no stopping/standing/parking signs along where this spot and I do not recommend utilizing this spot.

Spot C is not listed here, but is located off of Delaware Route 1.  You would be able to get arrivals going into Runway 1, which would fly over at a rather low altitude, since you'd be about 1/4 mile from the threshold to Runway 1.  Departures off of 19 could also be viewed from here, but they may already be much higher up than you'd hope.  Take note of below.

Please note that there are plenty of no stopping/standing/parking signs along where the spot is located and it is not recommended to stop here even for one second as Delaware Route 1 has a 55 MPH speed limit and when traffic is moving, traffic moves at a much higher speed.  Not only would you have a very high chance of getting asked to leave by the Delaware State Police and also by Security Forces, you also run the risk of serious injury and/or death at this spot.

Airshow WeekendDover AFB will be hosting an airshow in August 2017.  Like many airshows, Dover does have a media and DOD only airshow on Friday, which is usually a rehearsal day for all of the performers.  This is usually off-limits to the general public, but this can be watched from the Air Mobility Command Museum parking lot and outside air park.  Photography would be a challenge as you would be far from the show line.

Activity at Dover AFB

There is no rhyme or pattern to when you'll see flying and this information will not be published anywhere nor should you ask anyone as it is a grave risk to national security.  Since mobility is the key mission at Dover, it is possible to have days that are especially active versus days that are not active at all.  Moving cargo in and out of Dover AFB for our Armed Services is a 24/7/365 mission and the men and women of the 436th Airlift Wing and the 512th Airlift Wing are called upon to complete this any time of day.

Having said that, you will see C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III movements more than anything else, as the base is home to both types of aircraft, and you will occasionally see C-5s and C-17s from other bases transit through as well.  There are two active duty squadrons within the 436th Airlift Wing and two reserve squadrons within the 512th Airlift Wing - the reserves fly the same planes the active duty crews fly.  One squadron is host to thirteen C-17 Globemaster IIIs and one squadron is host to approximately eighteen C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft.  Keep in mind that there are no C-5A and C-5B Galaxies currently based at Dover, as all aircraft were modified to become C-5M Super Galaxy.

You may get to see these aircraft flying around the area, doing missed approaches and touch and goes - in fact, one time I saw one C-5B spend at least two to three hours in the pattern doing touch and goes as well as a single C-17 doing tactical maneuvering in the area because of that C-5.  In addition to the based C-17s and C-5Ms, you will often see other C-5s and C-17s from other bases, usually on missions that may require a hop over the ocean.  KC-10s from McGuire have been known to use the pattern at Dover from time to time, and KC-135s from other bases are regulars as well.  You may also see aircraft from NAS Patuxent River transit through Dover AFB - this includes F/A-18 Hornets, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, P-8A Poseidons, and T-38 Talons, among others.

The United States Air Force also contracts out civilian chartered transport aircraft from time to time.  This means you will see Boeing 747s from Atlas Airlines and Kallita Air.

Corporate jets can also be seen at Dover.  Kallita Charters has several jets based on the ramp adjacent to the ramp and there is a small Dover flying club that flies Cessna 172s out of there - those Cessnas are kept on the "Christmas Tree."  I recommend anyone going after corporate jets to visit Dover AFB between three days before major NASCAR race weekends and a day or two after race weekend as most racing company aircraft will likely park at Dover AFB.

Foreign transports can also be seen at Dover from time to time.  Dover has also played host to several foreign airliners and official transports seeking parking during the United Nations General Assembly, held in New York City.  This is because the aircraft can only spend a limited amount of time on the ground at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Below are some of the most common callsigns you will hear from Dover-based C-5s and C-17s.

Callsign Aircraft Notes
Bolar C-5M Super Galaxy  
Cowboy C-5M Super Galaxy  
Fixer C-5M Super Galaxy Normally for depot flights
Fred C-5M Super Galaxy Generic C-5 Galaxy callsign
Hagar C-5M Super Galaxy Local training flights
Jumbo C-5M Super Galaxy Local training flights
Kite C-5M Super Galaxy  
Rogue C-5M Super Galaxy  
Reach C-5M Super Galaxy Used for non-training flights
Reach C-17 Globemaster III Used for non-training flights
Jammer C-17 Globemaster III  
Rider C-17 Globemaster III Local training flights
Royal C-17 Globemaster III Local training flights

Security

Keep in mind that while at the Air Mobility Command Museum, Security Forces do indeed patrol around the perimeter and they can ask you to stop taking photos and video, and I would not be surprised if they do ask that.  If asked to stop taking photos, please comply.  It is, after all, an active military installation, and you could get detained for photographing.  Even though the museum is open to the public and I'm sure there will likely be other people out there taking pictures of incoming and departing traffic, be aware that this can very well happen without any notice or warning.  As always, carry your ID.

Do not attempt to spot from Spots B or C listed, as there are no stopping/standing/parking signs erected at these spots and also that these spots are very unsafe.

Facilities

There are multiple sit-down and fast food restaurants and retail establishments along U.S. Route 13 and other major arteries within fifteen minutes of Dover AFB.  It is highly recommended that if you plan to spend the entire day at Dover AFB, that you eat a full meal before your visit or pack a cold sandwich to keep in your car.  There are also restrooms, a water fountain, and vending machines inside the Air Mobility Command Museum.