Aircraft Spotting Pages - Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia


The above map, with modifications, was provided by Google Earth.

About the Spots and What You Will See

Spot A:  This is the most popular spot at NAS Oceana - so much so that the City of Virginia Beach even recommends this spot to watch aircraft at NAS Oceana.  It is almost designed as such to accommodate anyone who wishes to watch aircraft.

From I-264 East, take exit 21A towards NAS Oceana.  Turn right at the light onto First Colonial Road (you have no choice), go straight through the lights for Virginia Beach Blvd. and S. First Colonial Road.  If coming from I-264 West, take Exit 21, make a left at the light, and go through the lights past S. First Colonial Road.  The road changes names at this point and is known as Oceana Blvd.  It will bend to the left and then to the right.  When it bends to the right, there is a left turn lane.  Make a left there and park only along the wooden fence and do not park on the grass (see below section regarding the airshow and below photo of how it is recommended you park here); this is an access point for the city as they conduct official business in the gated area.  It is very important to park as close to the fence as you can so you are not blocking any municipal activities that go on over there and do not block access to the fire hydrant, as it is used daily by city workers.  If those gates are open, do not attempt to gain access through there.  If you do not, you will be asked to leave.

This spot will give you a great view of 23L and 23R approaches as well as departures off 5L and 5R, although you will need a large lens to capture the activities off the 5s.  Don't bother trying to get landings from the 5s here, especially with heat haze taken into consideration.  If you park here and the 23s are active, aircraft will fly right over your head pretty low for 23L and you will get a nice side shot for 23R, and you can park and walk south no more than another 300 feet alongside Oceana Boulevard to get some side shots, if at all possible.  You don't need anything more than 300 mm for this spot.  Be very careful with taking pictures here because there are a lot of power lines and utility poles that you will have to deal with.  Most of the departures off the 5s will turn right early so be prepared for that - although some may do straight-out departures, but by the time they reach you, the jets will be in military power and pretty high up.  Regardless, the sound here is amazing.

This spot is especially popular during the days leading up to the annual NAS Oceana Airshow.  On these days, there is an exceptionally high amount of vehicular traffic from locals and airshow fans who have traveled many hours for the airshow.  That time of year is the only acceptable time where you can park on the grass.  It is beneficial to do so to maximize the amount of vehicles that can fit at the spot and not block access for city workers, as they will call law enforcement to ask people to leave.  It is possible that time of year to fit more than forty vehicles in this lot. 

If this fills up, the alternate access point is to go east on Virginia Beach Blvd., turn right onto Sykes Ave., right onto Southern Blvd., and find parking.  Be mindful of the residents that live there as they may not tolerate a large number of vehicles parked on the streets blocking access to their homes.  Virginia Beach has a tendency to tow unauthorized vehicles for any reason (been there, done that) so keep in mind parking there is at your own risk.

Recommendation:  Sun angle changes here around mid-day.  Side-on photos of departures from 5R and 23L arrivals are possible if you walk about 300-400 feet from your car in either direction.  Walk south to achieve side-on photos (they appear left to right on departure and right to left on landing).  When the sun angle changes, you will want to walk towards Virginia Beach Blvd. to achieve better photos (right to left departing and left to right on landing).

 

Facilities:  There are multiple fast food restaurants and convenience stores located on First Colonial Road and Virginia Beach Blvd.  These are all located within ten minutes of Spot A.  There are also multiple retail establishments in the same area.

Finally, be mindful of your safety at this spot.  There have been a number of motor vehicle accidents at and near this spot over the last few years due to motorists losing control of their vehicles trying to make that left curve at well above the posted speed limit.  Please be vigilant and ready to help in case of an accident.  Also, do not try to cross Oceana Blvd to get photos over by the fence as security forces and local law enforcement officers will ask you to leave or even detain you.  While there is a sidewalk there, it is frowned upon to be stationary there.

 

 

Spot B:  This is the second-most popular spot at Oceana.  Follow the directions above to Spot A, only this time make the right turn onto S. First Colonial Road.  Stay on this road - there is a very sharp and dangerous right turn, and at that point, it becomes Potters Road.  Follow Potters Road for a little over a mile and you will see a gravel area to your right where you can pull off the road and watch and take pictures from.  You get very close to 14L and 14R approaches and you don't really need anything more than 300 mm for here.  If you have a tailgate, you can get up on it and get an overview of the two runways, and get some great shots of the planes are taking off from 14R (this is not recommended due to heat haze).

You can get very very distant views of landings on the opposite end of the runway - the 32s, and you get some fantastic photos of them taking off from the 32s as well.  You'll want to pull off and face the runways AND be at least a car length's distance away from Potters Road for your own safety.  Motorists are known to recklessly drive down Potters Road at speeds approaching 100 mph.  In addition there have been MANY accidents in that area due to reckless driving, so please be vigilant and ready to help in case of an accident.  You will also see vehicles use that area to make U-turns, so please be aware of that.

Recommendation:  Sun angle changes here around mid-day.  When the 32s are in use, the best time of day for departing photos is mid-afternoon to sunset.  When the 14s are in use, the best time of day for landing photos is morning to mid-afternoon.  Having said that, this is the only useable off-base spot for these runways.

Facilities:  There are multiple fast food restaurants and convenience stores located on First Colonial Road and Virginia Beach Blvd.  These are all located within fifteen minutes of Spot B.  There are also multiple retail establishments in the same area.

 

 

Spot C:  This is the least-known spot to watch at NAS Oceana.  The best route is to follow the above directions to Spot B, only go past Spot B, and follow Potters Road to the light and turn left onto London Bridge Road.  Follow London Bridge Road for about three miles and turn left at the traffic light onto Taylor Farm Road.  Make the first left (Squadron Court) and park on the side of the road as close to the curb as possible.  You will be in clear view of landings to 5R, but you will not see them land, since you have a tree line before the runway.  Landings to 5L are even more obscured and can't be viewed as well as the 5R aircraft.  You will need more than 300 mm for some shots and less for others.  The light here is mediocre.  There are many private businesses along Squadron Court so please respect the owners' requests if they ask you to leave.

There is another spot down along Taylor Farm Road that brings out better light for 5R arrivals, however, you are on private property.  The first and only visit I made resulted in getting kicked out by the owner.

Recommendation:  Mid-afternoon until sunset is the best time for photos from this spot.  It may be possible to work the spot in the morning to mid-afternoon hours and have the sun at your back but you risk trespassing on private property.

Facilities:  There are multiple fast food restaurants and convenience stores located on First Colonial Road and Virginia Beach Blvd.  In addition, there are also multiple fast food restaurants and convenience stores located on General Booth Blvd. and Dam Neck Road.  These are all located within twenty minutes of Spot C.  There are also multiple retail establishments in these areas.

 

 

Spot D:  In the early and late 2000s, this was the spot that all Virginia Beach and Navy Police Officers suggest that you watch from.  I couldn't tell you why, but that has since changed.  This is the Flame of Hope Memorial, which is shaded and prevents you from watching arrivals to the 32s, but you can kind of see 32L and 32R departures for a few seconds, as they begin their takeoff roll.  There is a dedicated parking lot and a dedicated place to turn off of Oceana Boulevard to reach the Flame of Hope.  You will need more than 400 mm to get decent pictures, if you can get those pictures.

Recommendation:  When NAS Oceana is on the 32s, this is not a good spot to use.  Even if you walked south of the Flame of Hope Memorial, you would be walking along a major road and this is not recommended.  The light here would only be good morning until about 12 pm.

Spot E:  This is located inside NAS Oceana.  Follow Oceana Boulevard and turn onto Tomcat Boulevard.  This spot is a park located before the NAS Oceana Visitor's Center.  It's located about 500 feet past the traffic light and on your right as you enter the base.  I do not recommend you checking this spot out since it is on military property nor do I recommend any kind of photography here, even though the light here is fantastic from 12:00 onward.  You do get to see aircraft making their base to final on the 32s from here.

Spot F:  Spot F refers to two spots on base.  Both are located by the NAS Oceana Terminal, which is located by the Air Operations building, and is where most of the transient traffic will park.  You have a great view of activities on all of the runways, but remember that you will need at least 300 mm to get decent takeoff and landing shots from any of the runways.  While Spot F refers to two spots located on base, as a civilian, it is only possible to photograph from here while escorted on base by a sponsor as these are inside the security checkpoints.  In addition, for safety, please bring hearing protection.

FacilitiesIt is highly recommended that you eat a full meal before going on base, especially if you will be on base for several hours.  You are allowed to being bottled water with you but please be extra careful with anything you bring as it can easily become FOD.  Since you are near an active and sterile ramp, it is highly important that you keep a close eye on anything you bring with you.  While there are restrooms and a vending machine in the terminal, the nearest place to get anything to eat is at the Officer's Club, and your escort would have to accompany you.

 

 

Runways 5/23 (left and right) will be out in front of you and 14/32 (left and right) will be to your right.  Do not attempt to walk out to the flight line without an escort by security forces.

In addition, this spot includes the control tower.  If you are lucky enough to get a tour of the tower, you can get some outstanding views of the traffic using ANY of the runways.  You'll need at least 300mm for both the ground and the tower and prior approval from all personnel to photograph from the tower.  The two photos below were taken from the catwalk on the control tower.

 

Standard photography restrictions are in effect - no open panels, no nose cone radomes - but other than that, you are free to take all the pictures you want from the ramp.  Your sponsor will go over any and all of the current photography restrictions with you.

Normal Operations

To sum it best, weekdays are the best days to see anything at NAS Oceana.  There is no rhyme or pattern as to which days of the week see more flying over others, though it is expected that there will be fewer operations on days in which a federal holiday falls.  There is flying on weekends, but this is rare.  If the weather is ideal, you could potentially see a lot of activity from the based Hornets and Super Hornets.  When there is a deployment coming up, the respective squadrons in that air wing will ramp up their operations and pilots will practice landing on the carrier at NAS Oceana and at nearby NALF Fentress (the runways at all Naval Air Stations have a carrier deck painted on them so pilots can practice landing on an aircraft carrier).

In addition to the based Hornets and Super Hornets, you could occasionally see aircraft from nearby bases practicing approaches at NAS Oceana. 

While photos above show F-14 Tomcats, please keep in mind that those photos were taken in 2005.  The last of the F-14s were retired in 2006.

Below are some of the most common callsigns you will hear from Oceana-based squadrons.

Callsign Aircraft Squadron
Ambush F/A-18A+ Hornet VFC-12 Omars
Canyon F/A-18E Super Hornet VFA-105 Gunslingers
Devil T-34C Mentor SFWSL
Dog F/A-18E Super Hornet VFA-143 Pukin' Dogs
Empire F/A-18C/D Hornet
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
VFA-106 Gladiators
Cross country flights only.
Felix F/A-18E Super Hornet VFA-31 Tomcatters
Gunfighter F-14 Tomcat (historic)
F-35C Lightning II
VF-101 Grim Reapers (historic)
VFA-101 Grim Reapers (current)
Gypsy F/A-18F Super Hornet VFA-32 Swordsmen
Hawk F/A-18E Super Hornet VFA-136 Knighthawks
Inferno F/A-18E Hornet VFA-81 Sunliners
Joker F/A-18C Hornet VFA-34 Blue Blasters
Juliet Uniform Boeing C-40C Clipper VR-56 Globemasters
Lion F/A-18F Super Hornet VFA-213 Black Lions
Nickel F/A-18F Super Hornet VFA-211 Checkmates
Party F/A-18E Super Hornet VFA-87 War Party
Pride F/A-18C Hornet VFA-15 Valions
Ragin F/A-18C Hornet VFA-37 Ragin' Bulls
Ram F/A-18C Hornet VFA-83 Rampagers
Ripper F/A-18F Super Hornet VFA-11 Red Rippers
Roman F/A-18C/D Hornet
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
VFA-106 Gladiators
All local training flights and demos.
Taproom F/A-18E Super Hornet VFA-143 Pukin' Dogs
Victory F/A-18F Super Hornet VFA-103 Jolly Rogers
Wildcat F/A-18C Hornet VFA-131 Wildcats

 

Airshow Weekend

As you may or may not be aware, the NAS Oceana Airshow is one of the most popular airshows for anyone traveling more than two or three hours to Oceana.  The days leading up to the airshow feature a heavy amount of flying from the local squadrons that are taking part in the Fleet Air Power Demo as well as VFA-106 flying practice demonstrations in the F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18F Super Hornet.

Spot A is the best spot to watch these practices.  Keep in mind the above rules listed for that spot, and know that there are road closures in place on the Thursday before airshow weekend as well as Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and this will prevent you from getting to or out of Spot C, which is the other preferred location.  If you choose to go to either spot (especially if you choose Spot C on Thursday), expect to stay there for several hours.  In years past on Thursday, the roads around NAS Oceana are closed between 12:00-4:00 PM while the Blue Angels perform their circle and arrival maneuvers and also fly a practice demonstration.

It is actually highly recommended to utilize Spot A for when the Blue Angels are airborne on Thursday as you will get to see just about everything they do and you will get a greater appreciation for their performance as you see how all of the maneuvers are centered for the crowd while on base.  Be sure to get there early and prepare to stay the entire day and do your part in making sure no one blocks the entrance for the city workers.

Spot A is blocked off from Friday through Sunday but can be accessed if you know the back way.

Finally, pay attention to any filed NOTAMs for the days leading up to the airshow if you want to catch any practice demonstrations.  They will likely be listed in UTC so be sure to subtract four hours for EDT (for example, 1200 UTC is 8 am local and 1600 UTC is noon local).  Click here to check NOTAMs and type KNTU in the Locations box.

 

Security

Law enforcement, whether they be military police or from the City of Virginia Beach will want you to either be at Spots A (Oceana Blvd) or C (Flame of Hope).  They have, in the past, asked spotters to leave from Spot B, but according to several locals, they have successfully fought to include Spot B (Potters Road) in the list of spots where law enforcement won't ask you to leave.  In years past, before the spots were declared fine, numerous individuals have been questioned and photographed by law enforcement - along with their equipment - but that harassment has ceased.  Please carry your identification with you along with a smile.

Law enforcement (usually the Virginia Beach Police Department) will occasionally frequent Spots A, B, and C conducting traffic stops and issuing traffic citations, as there are numerous spots where they can sit and set up near these spots to catch traffic violators.  Please be mindful of this, and DO NOT INTERFERE with law enforcement business and do not photograph or film these activities, while legal, it is best not to.

If you do happen to get a chance to go on base, be aware that while NAS Oceana is one of the most photo-friendly bases in the United States, there are still restrictions on what you can photograph. 

Standard photo restrictions include the following, but are not limited to:

  • No photos of any open panels (and removed engines) and no photos of aircraft with their nose cone removed or nose cone exposed.

  • No photos of any aircraft in the hangars, but if you are approved to do so, do not use a flash, as it could set off the fire suppressant system.

  • No photos of any items inside the control tower.

  • Leave the camera and cell phone in the car if you get lucky enough to visit the flight simulators. 

  • No photos of any of the civilian or military special operations aircraft on base.

Your sponsor will go over any and all of the current photography restrictions with you.