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).  The toll booths are located just south of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Bridge and just south of Dover Downs; other exits on Route 1 charge a toll (usually 50 cents or less).

Spot A is located at the Air Mobility Command Museum and is the best location for any kind of spotting at Dover AFB.  The museum can be accessed off Delaware Route 9 and has its own exit a few miles south of the main 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.  There are multiple locations on museum grounds where you can view nearly all Dover AFB operations, especially with activity arriving and departing off Runway 1 as well as on Runway 32.  Runway 14 and 19 departures are also easily observed from here and arrivals on both runways are distant.  There is also a small ramp adjacent to the museum and photographs of anything parked on there is possible through the openings in the perimeter fence. 

During times when there is no activity on either runway, I highly recommend checking out the museum.  It is one of Delaware's most popular non-beach, gaming, or shopping attractions and boasts an extensive collection of transport aircraft as well as some bombers and fighters.  There is also a control tower at the museum that can enable some amazing photo opportunities from inside the tower.  However, the tower is only open for tours by request and you would be photographing through tinted glass.

Recommendation:  Definitely utilize the Air Mobility Command Museum during the hours in which it is open.  Please keep in mind that Dover AFB security forces patrols the base and security forces very often drive by the museum and may ask you to stop taking photos of aircraft on the adjacent ramp if they see you do this.

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.

 

Views of the main ramp from Spot A.

 

View of the south ramp from Spot A.

 

View of a Runway 1 arrival and a 19 departure from Spot A.

View of a Runway 14 departure from Spot A.

Spot B is located off of Delaware Route 1 and is good for arrivals onto Runway 1 as well as departures off of 19.  While this spot is excellent for both activities above, it is not recommended to pull off of Route 1 for any length of time due to the high likelihood of being involved in a motor vehicle accident as the speed limit of that part of Route 1 is 60 mph and most drivers pass by at 75 mph or higher.  There are signs on the northbound side stating no stopping and standing (there is however a large paved and grass shoulder).  On the southbound side there is an exit for Pioneer Materials and gets you off of Route 1.  While this is an excellent location , it should be used at your own risk because it is private property and employees and contractors have stated that no one is allowed back there at any time, so you have a very high likelihood of being asked to leave, especially during normal business hours.

Recommendation:  Use this at your own risk for Runway 1 arrivals only.  Light here is good only from mid afternoon until sunset.

 

Spot C is not listed here, but is located off of Delaware Route 9 on Bergold Lane.  You would be able to get arrivals going into Runway 32, which would fly over at a very low altitude and very close to you, since the road runs by the approach lights to Runway 32.  Any amount of lens is recommended here but keep in mind your proximity to the runway.  Runway 14 departures would likely be very high once reaching your position.

Please note that there are plenty of no stopping/standing/parking signs along the main road off of which the spot is located and it is not recommended to stop here even for one second as Delaware Route 9 has a 50 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.  If you choose to utilize this spot please only so do at your own discretion and note the risks you take by stopping here.

Spot D is located on Little Creek Road and is excellent for Runway 19 arrivals.  There are actually two spots located here and can be utilized during any part of the day, depending on where the sun is positioned.  There are large fields to your left and right; both of which are private property.  There is a single family residence that appears to be in line with the straight-in approach to Runway 19.  When driving from Bayside Drive/Delaware Route 1, utilize a location on the shoulder and pull off as far as you comfortably can prior to the residence anytime before 2 pm and use a location past the residence and past a large group of trees from about 2 pm to sunset.  Any and all size lenses are recommended here, depending on the aircraft.  It is possible to stay at this spot for an extended period of time but not recommended due to safety.  In addition, because you are more than a mile away, this spot is not recommended for Runway 1 departures.  Utilize Spot A for all Runway 1 departures if possible.

Recommendation:  Use this at your own risk for Runway 19 arrivals only.  Little Creek Road is signed for a 50 mph speed limit here and people regularly go much faster than that, especially in this part.  The owner of the residence has stated to a few spotters that he doesn't mind people photographing airplanes as long as no one interferes with anything related to the crops and that no one goes anywhere near the crops.  There is a shopping center about four miles away near Bay Road that can be utilized as a staging point for this spot for when there is nothing in the pattern or coming into Dover AFB. 

 

Spot E is located on the shoulder of Lafferty Lane and 5th Street and is good for Runway 14 arrivals.  Runway 32 departures would be too high here and not recommended.  There is a full shoulder here and one can pull almost completely off the road to utilize this location.  It is not recommended to stay here for any extended period of time due to safety.

Recommendation:  Again, only use this at your own risk for Runway 14 arrivals only and for a short period of time.

Airshow WeekendDover AFB will be hosting an airshow on August 26-27, 2017.  Like many airshows, Dover does have a media and DOD only airshow on Friday August 25, 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 so a lens greater than 400mm may be needed and all performers will center their routines towards the main ramp.  Museum officials have confirmed that the AMC Museum will be open normal hours (9 am to 4 pm) all airshow weekend and shuttle buses between the airshow flight line and the museum will occur on Saturday and Sunday of airshow weekend.

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 and KC-135s from McGuire have been known to use the pattern at Dover from time to time as well as aircraft from other neighboring bases will utilize Dover AFB for pattern work for any length of time.

The United States Air Force also contracts out civilian chartered transport aircraft; this means you will see Boeing 747s from Atlas Air and Kallita Air a few times a week.

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 every September.  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
Hagar C-5M Super Galaxy Local training flights
Jumbo C-5M Super Galaxy Local training flights
Reach C-5M Super Galaxy Used for mission flights
Reach C-17 Globemaster III Used for mission flights
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.

Spots B, C, D, and E are to be used at your own risk and keep in mind that you have a very high chance of being asked to leave by employees and law enforcement at Spot B.

Facilities

There are multiple sit-down and fast food restaurants and retail establishments along Bay Road and Delaware Route 10, all of which are within ten minutes of any of the spots listed on the map.  There are also restrooms, a water fountain, and vending machines inside the Air Mobility Command Museum.

It is highly recommended that you pack a cooler in your vehicle with food and drinks if you plan to spend all day at the Air Mobility Command Museum.  The gift shop has a very limited drink selection but no food.