Reporter's Notebook

America by Air
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Inspired by our March 2016 cover story by James Fallows,How America Is Putting Itself Back Together,” readers share their best aerial photos from across the U.S. Submit your own via hello@theatlantic.com. (Please provide the location, the story behind the photo, and the largest file size you have. Horizontal photos with a bit of the plane visible—a wing, the edge of a window—are ideal. Terms and Conditions here.)

Show 108 Newer Notes
Rebecca Pinkus
Google Earth

A reader figures out the location of yesterday’s aerial view from Rebecca Pinkus and sends the above image from Google Earth that matches it exactly:

Howdy, Atlantic staff! Yesterday’s, uh, view from an airplane window looks north, north-east over the town of Ashburn, Virginia. A best estimate is that the picture was taken at 2:42:57 PM on January 30th, at 38.9775N/77.543W from an altitude of 4,100 feet shortly after takeoff from Dulles’ runway 30. The high school immediately adjacent to the water towers is Ashburn’s Briar Woods High.

It’s too bad your reader gave the arrival and departure cities; this location would have been slightly harder to find without them.

That email is from Doug Chini, the legendary guru of the View From Your Window Contest—a weekly feature I edited for years at The Dish, beginning in 2010 when Andrew and I were at The Atlantic. Every week we posted a photo from a reader’s window and invited others to guess the location. The resulting entries I edited together were mind-boggling in their detail and precision, in addition to the local color, history, and personal stories the views solicited from readers. Chini was hands down the most accurate and consistently impressive player, so it was so cool to see him pop up in the Notes inbox this morning, out of the blue.

Mitchell Yee

Another fantastic shot from a reader:

Located at the southern end of California’s Central Valley, Bakersfield—the county seat of Kern County, which is one of the largest counties in the U.S.—is a microcosm of the economic and political issues confronting California’s Central Valley. The problems start with drought and water resource mismanagement but also continue to other issues ranging from urbanization of prime farmland, salinization of prime farmland, air pollution (this area is consistently in the top ten areas with the worst air quality in the U.S. as rated by the American Lung Association), and poverty.

I’ve been working on a photo study of the area, and because of the size of the county (8200 square miles), I took to the air, specifically in a Cessna 172 with the passenger-side window removed for photography. This photo is a view of the massive Chevron oilfield north of Bakersfield called Oildale. At the time of the shot, October 2015, the field was nearly in full production, driven by the price of crude oil that was hovering around $50 per barrel.

Rebecca Pinkus

The detail in this wintry view is wonderful:

Great project you’re doing. Here’s a shot that I particularly like from a recent flight on a prop plane from Dulles to Toronto (Porter Airlines)—a few days after the “epic blizzard” in January 2016.

If you think you know the town, let us know.

Sebastian Gregg

These aerial shots from readers are getting better and better:

Good afternoon! I want to share my submission for America From the Air—a photo I took while flying from Miami to Guatemala City in March 2015. It was the second leg of a journey from Brazil to Guatemala. At the time, I was an American diplomat stationed at the U.S. Consulate General in Sao Paulo and starting a temporary duty assignment (TDY) at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City.

I am a window seat junkie who meticulously chooses my seat based on the prevailing runway patterns and last-minute checks of runways in use on flightaware.com to get the best possible views on takeoffs and landings. As a Miami native and Foreign Service Officer who didn’t get to travel home often enough, I was thrilled to see my research pay off with this colorful photo of downtown Miami and Biscayne Bay. The Brickell neighborhood and Brickell Key are to the left of the mouth of the Miami river, with the city’s center and the American Airlines Arena (which has an airplane silhouette on the roof) just below the leading edge of the 737’s wing.

Thanks for putting together this great series, I’ve loved the submissions so far. (Especially the photo of the National Mall ... I always try and sit on the left side of the plane when flying into Reagan!)

But a wide-open scene of the Seattle skyline:

Martín Lorenzo

Details from the reader:

Flying into SeaTac on July 19, 2015. (The photo is unfiltered.) You can see the Seattle waterfront, which is dead center, where the Great Wheel is.

On-the-ground views here. It’s the tallest Ferris wheel on the West Coast, at 175 feet (53.3 m). The tallest in the U.S., and the world, is the High Roller, towering over Las Vegas at 550 foot (167.6 m). Full list here.

Laura Hagan

A reader gets nostalgic:

I lived in Mammoth Lakes, California (a ski town in the Eastern Sierra) for several years and still consider it home, even though I live in DC now. Flying from DC to San Francisco on December 7, 2015, I deliberately sat on the left side of the plane so I would be sure to see my old home as we flew by.

In the center of the shot you can see Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, with its well-defined lower runs and its great white expanse across the top of the ridge. In the lower right, you can see June Mountain, Mammoth’s smaller sister. After the terrible drought of the last several years, I was very happy to see a decent snow cover this early in the season. When I lived there from ’96 to ’03, we had several years of 400+ inches of snow and good skiing from November into June.

Seeing the place even now takes my breath away, I miss it so.

Jordan P. Williams

A well-framed shot of Chicago from May 2015:

I was onboard a Southwest flight into Midway and caught this view of the loop, all the skyscrapers and even Navy Pier! What’s really striking is the huge swath of green right along the lake—Grant Park and Millennium Park.

The latter got off to a rough start:

Matthew Schaidle

From a 2nd lieutenant in the Marine Corps:

This photo was taken on November 11, 2014, when I was arriving at Reagan National (DCA) from Boston (BOS). It had been a great trip, visiting such a historic town with a close military friend on Veterans Day. As I looked out the window during the final descent, I realized I picked the right side of the plane to see a stunning view of the nation’s capital. I pulled out my phone just in time to capture this view of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Memorial, Reflecting Pool, White House (barely), Capitol Building, and the rest of the National Mall.

The Watergate, where The Atlantic is headquartered, is just out of frame.

Tim Heffernan, an Atlantic alum who has written several great pieces for the magazine, sends an agita inducing view:

This is a bit of a cheat for the series since I wasn’t actually airborne, but a few years ago I toured the Empire State Building as a journalist and got to go out on the open-air catwalk beneath the radio mast—effectively the 103rd floor. The T-shaped doohickey is a lightning rod. And that parapet is very very low, maybe knee-height on me. When I remarked on this, my guide told me to quit being such a baby; she had taken a bunch of Knicks players out there too, and the wall barely reached over their shoe-tops. On a CBS visit in 2013, they learned that the deck of the catwalk has been lowered in order to make the parapet wall higher. Here you can see how low it was when I was up there (it’s the silver-painted part of the wall).

Rosa Smith

Our social media fellow, Rosa, adds a gorgeous shot to the series (which you can still contribute to):

This is Mt. Hood in January 2015, seen from the south on a flight departing Portland, Oregon. There is less snow than there should be for January, and you can see a dark spot on the right near the summit where volcanic activity is melting the snow. Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams are all visible in the background (Mt. Adams at the very tip of the wing).

I was lucky to get plenty of powder when I skied at Mount Hood Meadows with my brother in late December. And according to this report from Friday on a winter storm, things are looking good for Hood:

The fresh batch of snow is good news in northwest Oregon, where a once-robust snowpack dropped below normal in the Central Cascades and Mount Hood following February’s stretch of warm weather. Central Cascade snow-water equivalent was 85 percent of normal and Mount Hood 81 percent of normal as of Feb. 19. The influx of snow should bounce that number closer to 100 percent, where it has been most of the season.

Matthew Lore

Our latest reader in the series writes:

This photo was taken aboard a federal contract jet departing Fairbanks, Alaska, and destined for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. Flights like these shuttled back and forth between Alaska and the lower 48 throughout the summer, transiting some of the many firefighters dispatched to Alaska to help fight  forest fires burning there during the summer of 2015. The crews aboard this flight were returning to their normal duty stations across Idaho after completing two week assignments in Alaska.

Callie Snyder

A reader recounts an incredible trip:

This past September I accompanied my boyfriend when he piloted his Cessna 170 on a cross country flight from Anchorage, Alaska to Lockhart, Texas (30 miles from Austin). The entire trip took eight days. We passed over these glaciers and mountains on the first day en route to Prince William Sound.

From there, we proceeded south down the coast. We camped on the beach at Icy Bay the first night and stayed in a historic hotel in Juneau the next. We went inland at Prince Rupert, British Columbia, the following day and spent the next two nights in Canada—in a hotel in Terrace one night and camping on a grass strip maintained by a hang gliding club in Hope on the second night.

We crossed back into the states at Oroville, Washington, camping on the tarmac that night in Odessa, where we ended up crashing their annual Deutschesfest celebration. The next day, we flew out of Washington, eastern Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and on into Utah, spending the night in South Provo. On the second to last day, we flew over the four corners—Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico—and spent our final night in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

It was a tremendous way to experience an incredible number of stunning landscapes in a relatively short segment of time.