Last Validated Aug 2017
City Lajes, Terceira
Position 38°45'43"N 027°05'27"W
Runway(s) 15/33
Elevation 180 ft


Lajes Field on Terceira island is the major military airfield of the Azores, with combined civil use. Strategically positioned, the distance from here to Lisbon is some 1500 km, to New York some 4000 km. While trans-Atlantic passenger flights have been doing without fuelstops for decades, military traffic between the USA and Europe (or beyond) often benefits from a landing in the Azores. At Lajes, their hosts are the Portuguese Base Aérea 4, and the USAF 65th Air Base Wing. Lajes is also the main option for diversion of many flights, should an emergency occur (remember the Air Transat 'gliding Airbus').

The only military aircraft stationed here are the transport and SAR detachments of the Portuguese air force, usually with one aircraft each. The bulk of movements is generated by the US military, both with their own airplanes in transit and with civil charters. The modern civil terminal handles regular passenger and tourist traffic. SATA is naturally the most common airline to be seen here. On the southern side of Lajes village, a simple monument pays tribute to the crash of a Venezuelan C-130 in 1976.


The field occupies the northeastern edge of the island, with one main 3300m runway in operation. Between the runway and the coast, partly on a hill, lie the military facilities. The civil terminal and aeroclub are on the southwestern side. The military aprons comprise a huge area. The Portuguese part of this is opposite the civil terminal, behind the main gate to BA4. This is also where most civil charters for the military will park, as well as some larger regular airline traffic. Further to the northwest one will usually find the fighters, tankers and transport aircraft.

Getting There

Several European airlines serve Lajes, albeit not too frequently. Flights may be combined with a stop at Ponta Delgada on São Miguel island. Once on Terceira, the airfield is easy to reach by road. From Praia da Vitoria, where the majority of hotels are, bus 151 connects to the terminal every hour, for a one-way fee of less than one euro. The taxi fare for the same ride lies somewhere between 4 and 7 euros.

Around the Airport

1Lookout point

Spot 1 is a really good observation point, with a grand view over the airfield. For photos, it is best until 11.30 am (Daylight Saving Time) after which landings or departeres will be backlit. To get here, approach the main gate on the eastern edge of the field, and then continue uphill. Just before a roundabout take a sharp right, and right again at the junction. There is even a sign with binoculars on it to show the way. A final right turn leads to a dead-end street with roundabout, and even a viewing balcony.

2Final 33 am

If so preferred, photos can be made from alongside this road, almost in the extension of the approach lights. Especially for heavy departures from 15 with morning light, this might be worthwhile. Parking should not be a problem in the area.

3Final 33 rest of day

After approximately 11.30 am, the sun's position will be in favour of spot 3 over spot 2. This one is also better-positioned in terms of viewing angle. Parking a car on the spot is not very practical.

4Threshold 33

A spot very close to the action can be found behind a few homes at a mere 150m from the runway threshold. There are some stone walls and piles of rocks that one can stand on, to take photos clear of the fence. Any traffic using 33 makes for great views, and even heavy departures from 15 can be interesting. Coming from the terminal, this is the first road to the left after the roundabout. Please respect the privacy of those living here and park somewhere out of the way.

5Terminal parking

From the terminal passenger parking, one has a view comparable to that of spot 4. The main differences are the angles towards the taxiways at the threshold and to the civil apron.

6Civil apron

Moving further north, we come to another paid parking lot. Its surrounding embankment is some 8 meters above apron level. The view is simply great and photo opportunities are plenty. For shots on the runway or even further, heat haze could pose a problem. In that case, spots 4 and 7 are the best alternatives.

7Along runway 15/33

This is actually not a single spot, but an 1800m stretch of road along the fence: take your pick! The benefits of this location are obvious and moving up and down here should enable the spotter to complete a log of even a busy ramp. While at it, look for the preserved G91 as well (see under 'Preserved'). For photos, the only obstacle is the rather high fence. To get above it, one could consider steps but using these may not always be appreciated. Alternatives can be found in piles of rocks, used by the locals as well. Near our mark of this spot is even an abandoned shed on a mound that can be used as an observation platform.

8Final 15

If runway 15 is in use, a good photo location can be found along the former northern runway. To get here, one can essentially follow the perimeter from spot 7, or approach via the north-south branch off the EN1-1A, just south of the threshold 15 (see map). The light is favourable from approximately 11.30 am (DST).

9Final 15 am

From spot 8, one can still continue along the fence and traverse to the other side of the centreline, to take advantage of early morning light. The nearby apron is the hazardous cargo and arm/dearm area, so activities there could result in plane watchers being moved by security.

10North-side hill

Our final spot is another hilltop lookout, this one on the northern side of Lajes Field. It may aid in completing the log, and it can be an interesting morning photo spot with long lens. It may be adviseable to keep a respectable distance from the nearby military installations.

The interesting angle on final from the elevated spot 1 is shown with this A319 framed by Jeroen Jonkers.

Jaap Dubbeldam caught this Iraqi F-16, presumably enroute from the US to its new home, from spot 7 in April 2017.


233.975 / 121.900Ground
257.800 / 122.100Tower
362.300 / 135.000Approach
317.500 / 123.300Approach
385.400 / 134.100Approach
234.800 / 120.300ATIS

Based Operators

Esq502 det.C295M
Esq751 det.EH101


midfield, next to a three-story white building
(38°45'52.5"N 027°05'09.7"W)

More Info

Aerogare LajesCivil airport website
65th Air Base WingUSAF Lajes Field website

Other Airfields


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