Aircraft Spotting Pages - Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey

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

Spotting Locations

Spot A:  This is in a shopping center parking lot featuring a bowling alley.  The best route to here is to take US Route 206 (coming from Philadelphia via Routes 38 or 70) north, turning right onto Monmouth Road (County Route 537), and turning right at the light for Route 68.  At the next light, make a left and follow that road into Wrightstown.  You will know when to make the left turn because if you go further, you're going to hit one of the gates for the Fort Dix side of the base.  Follow that road into town and bear left after about two traffic lights (the McDonalds will be to your right).  The shopping center will be to your left.  The reference point for this spot is Thunderbird Lanes and a Dollar General.  You will get a great view of departures from Runway 36, but there are trees that will prevent you from watching the operations on the base.  I would imagine arrivals to Runway 18 will be really spectacular.  This spot is considered off-limits due to the sensitivity of being next to the base.

Facilities:  There are multiple fast food restaurants and convenience stores located within ten minutes of this spot.

Spot B:  This is a running track off of Texas Avenue.  Follow the directions to Spot C but stay on 530 for a couple miles and make a left turn onto Trenton Road (its the next light past Juliustown Road).  In the past, this spot was available to anyone, but is now considered on base property, as there is a gate about a half mile from the racetrack.  You are not able to see any of the runways here, but you can get close to arrivals to 6 and 36 and departures from 18 and 24This spot is considered off-limits as it is beyond security checkpoints.

Facilities:  There are multiple fast food restaurants and convenience stores located within ten minutes of this spot.

Spot C:  This is closest of the parking lots to County Route 530 at the Rowan University at Burlington County.  From Route 70, get on Four Mile Road at the circle with Route 72 (there is a sign pointing to Burlington County College) and when the road forks left and right, bear to the left and turn left at the traffic light.  Make a left into the next light and turn right into the first parking lot.  From Route 38 heading east, do not make any turns and follow 38 past its ending point at US Route 206.  It will turn into the Pemberton Bypass.  At the end of the bypass, make a right onto County Route 530 (Pemberton-Browns Mills Road) and make a right at the traffic light.  Pull into the first parking lot and park.  You are at least a mile and a half from the threshold of Runway 6 but you can see aircraft turning on their final approach for Runway 6, since that's where they make their turn from base to final.  Runway 24 departures are also spectacular, as they are about 1,000 to 2,000 feet up at this point.  This spot is considered off-limits as this is private property and should only be utilized by students and faculty.

Facilities:  There are multiple fast food restaurants and convenience stores located within ten minutes of this spot.

Other SpotsWhile there are videos on YouTube depicting aircraft arriving and departing from JB MDL via Runways 6, 24, and 36, these are essentially unofficial spots and it is not recommended that you try to find these locations.

In addition, there have been many inquires about other locations around JB MDL as well as some photos of McGuire-based KC-10s KC-135s, and C-17s that I've featured elsewhere on Zinger Aviation Media.  Unfortunately, I cannot reveal at this time where those photos were taken.

Airshow Weekend:  Unfortunately, due to the layout of the runways and main ramp at Joint Base MDL, this precludes anyone from watching the airshow performances from a site off-base and being able to photograph. 

Traffic at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is home to several units.  Because it is a Joint Base, aircraft from multiple services are based through different parts of the base.  The main units are the 305th Air Mobility Wing (active duty) and the 514th Air Mobility Wing (reserve) who share fourteen C-17 Globemaster IIIs and thirty-two KC-10 Extenders.  The 108th Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard operates eight KC-135R Stratotankers and the 150th Special Operations Squadron operates two Boeing C-32B transports for various classified missions.

As a result of the realignment, there are also many Navy and Marine Corps squadrons that call JB MDL home.  The United States Navy is represented by VR-64 with C-130T Hercules transports.  The United States Marine Corps are represented by .

Generally speaking, JB MDL is a very active air base - more so during the week, but that does not mean it is not active during weekends.  The missions flown by the C-17s, KC-10s, and KC-135s are especially vital to every aspect of the Armed Forces, and these aircraft are routinely seen out on training missions and even working the pattern when they are not on an active mission.  There is no rhyme or pattern to when you'll see them flying and this information will not be published anywhere nor should you ask anyone as it is a grave risk to national security.  JB MDL also sees its share of transient transports from other bases as well as civilian contracted transports (Boeing 747s from Atlas and Kalitta, Boeing 757s and 767s from ATI, for example) and a fair share of other military aircraft.

McGuire will sometimes see foreign military aircraft (usually transports) but keep in mind not every foreign aircraft will transit through McGuire.  Most will either utilize Bangor International Airport or Pease ANGB due to their location for transatlantic crossings, and others will even go to Dover AFB, Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Joint Base Andrews, or Washington-Dulles International Airport.

Below is a list of commonly heard callsigns of aircraft based at JB MDL.

Callsign Aircraft Squadron
Arris KC-10 Extender 305th AMW
Blue KC-10 Extender
KC-135R Stratotanker
See text below table.
Bravo Delta C-130T Hercules VR-64
Cabal KC-10 Extender 305th AMW
Claw C-17 Globemaster III See text below table.
Clean KC-10 Extender 305th AMW
Convoy C-40 Clipper
C-130 Hercules
See text below table.
Dactyl Boeing C-32B 150th SOS
Duce KC-10 Extender 305th AMW
Ethyl KC-10 Extender 305th AMW

Ethyl

KC-135R Stratotanker 108th Wing
Fist KC-10 Extender 305th AMW
Force KC-10 Extender 305th AMW
Fume Boeing C-32B 150th SOS
Ghost KC-10 Extender 305th AMW
Gold KC-10 Extender
KC-135R Stratotanker
See text below table.
Goon C-17 Globemaster III 305th AMW
Hoist KC-10 Extender 305th AMW
Hoser KC-135R Stratotanker 108th Wing
Hustler CH-53E Super Stallion HMH-772
Jedi C-17 Globemaster III 305th AMW
Jenna Boeing C-32B 150th SOS
Jinx C-17 Globemaster III 305th AMW
Mover KC-10 Extender 305th AMW
OPEC KC-10 Extender 305th AMW
Petro KC-10 Extender 305th AMW
Pegan Boeing C-32B 150th SOS
Reach C-5A Galaxy
C-5B Galaxy
C-5M Super Galaxy
C-17 Globemaster III
C-130 Hercules
KC-10 Extender
KC-135 Stratotanker
See text below table.
Red Dog AH-1 Cobra
UH-1 Huey
HMLA-773 (Det B)
Rocco KC-135R Stratotanker 108th Wing
Roma KC-10 Extender
KC-135 Stratotanker
See text below table.
Rummy KC-135R Stratotanker 108th Wing
Scary KC-10 Extender 305th AMW
Team KC-10 Extender 305th AMW
Terra Boeing C-32B 150th SOS
Topcat KC-135R Stratotanker 108th Wing

As you can see, there is a multitude of callsigns that are associated with the KC-10s based at McGuire.  There is no rhyme or reason for what mission would call for what callsign, however, any gas- or fuel-themed sounding callsign is likely a full-up refueling mission.  It can get confusing because both KC-10s from McGuire and Travis use these callsigns but if you can distinguish exactly which aircraft is utilizing the callsign (via registration) you can easily tell if it's a McGuire or a Travis jet.  The same applies for the BLUE and GOLD callsigns, which are used on "fighter drags" - missions involving at least one KC-10 or KC-135 assisting on bringing a flight of fighters across either the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Ocean to/from deployments.  ROMA is also a generic tanker callsign and is also used as a fighter drag from time to time.

The callsign of REACH is used by every cargo unit when they are flying a non-local mission.  For instance, a McGuire-based C-17 would normally use a JEDI or JINX callsign on a local mission, whereas if they are on a mission carrying any sort of cargo, you will hear the REACH callsign used.  Conversely, the callsign of CONVOY is the Navy equivalent of REACH.

The callsign of CLAW is reserved for C-17 Globemaster IIIs as part of the weapons school based at JB MDL.  Most of the time these are JB MDL birds but could also be reserved for any crew in the school regardless of whose C-17 they are flying.

The C-32Bs based at JB MDL do not have a pattern as to callsign usage due to the classified nature of their mission.  More information about the aircraft can be found here or by simply putting in "Boeing C-32B" into a search engine.

 

Security

At this time, Zinger Aviation Media does not recommend spotting at JB MDL for multiple reasons.

Firstly, even though Spots A and C are listed in areas one can easily access, they are located on private property and the local law enforcement jurisdictions currently do not tolerate plane spotters.  Spot A falls under Wrightstown Police's jurisdiction and base security forces will occasionally be seen on CR 616.  Spot B is located beyond the security checkpoints, so if you are not military, you cannot access the spot.  Spot C falls under the Pemberton Twp. Police Department's jurisdiction as well as BCC's security team; both patrol the campus very regularly and if you are not a BCC student, faculty, employee, or future student, you have no business being there.

Secondly, in May 2007 (this happened DAYS before the 2007 airshow), six radial Islamic men were arrested by the FBI after an investigation which revealed a terror plot that the six men were planning; the plot was to attack Fort Dix and "kill as many soldiers as possible."  This group of men spent time before attempting to carry out their terror attack practicing firing semi-automatic weapons in neighboring Pennsylvania and recording the activities.  The men were arrested and sentenced to prison with varying sentences.

Finally, as a result of the above foiled terror plot, the locals and law enforcement would have zero tolerance to anyone attempting to plane spot around JB MDL.  Even though the foiled terror plot and arrests occurred in 2007, this is still fresh in the minds of everyone.  While there are three spots listed on this page, they are for reference only.

At this point, I recommend against all spotting at McGuire.  It is simply not worth the risk.