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 (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 53 Newer Notes

America by Air: 'The Land of a Billion Lights'

Now that our aerial feature has grown to include videos, I figured I’d throw a new medium in the mix: I snagged this (cinemagraph? Boomerang?) short video back in 2015:

That bright part on the righthand side? That’s Downtown Los Angeles. Here’s another grab from the same flight, as the plane neared landing at LAX:

Edward L. Ewert

A pristine view of the city’s waterfront comes from reader Edward:

I started taking airplane photos in earnest about five years ago when it dawned on me that people, including myself, were numb to the wonders of flying. It has become a rather unpleasant ordeal in the last 15 years or so, but the wonders that speed by still amaze.

I shoot most of my window seat photos with an infrared modified camera, which helps cut through the inevitable haze at 30K+ feet. It gives a unique look, and I’ve included one sample to give you an idea (on approach to LAX). The other is a more conventional color photo over Miami, Florida.

But how colorful it is! Here’s a less scenic but still really cool shot of Miami from another mid-flight reader. Send your own, as always, to hello@.

Alan Nelson

Stu Smith captured one halo rainbow for us a few months ago, but now Alan ups the ante:

Here’s a photo for your consideration: a nice double rainbow during our departure out of Philadelphia the other day, with the Delaware River below. Always remember to look out the window …

… or at least rewatch this classic YouTube:

Tom James

This photo from reader Brian Neil doesn’t have a part of the aircraft in the frame but it makes the view all the more surreal. Here’s Brian with details and a bonus pic:

My friend Tom took this photo during a flight over San Francisco while I piloted a Cessna 172. The fog in SF has always been one of its most interesting features, and I love days when it partially covers the city. Sutro Tower gets to lord over the fog all the time, but it’s not common for it to reach downtown like this:

Jessica Placzek at KQED, a public radio station in San Francisco, profiled the Sutro Tower last summer:

Back in the 1960s, San Francisco had really bad television reception. By many accounts, it was the worst of any city in America. Good reception required a clear line of sight from the broadcast tower to your TV antenna, and in hilly San Francisco this was a challenge. Broadcasters began the hunt for a location to build a very tall tower that could send a clear TV signal far and wide. [...]

Thomas Krashen

This reader follows up Friday’s pastoral view from southwest Michigan with a lake-filled view from the northwest corner of the state:

Early evening over Antrim County, Michigan, back in April 2008, following departure from the Antrim Co. Airport (KACB) on Runway 2. Intermediate Lake is in the foreground and Lake Bellaire is in the upper right of the photo. The small town of Bellaire (pop. approx. 1080) is visible between the airport and Lake Bellaire.

After spending 40 years as a pilot based in Michigan, I have quite a few more photos. I’ll be happy to send more if you’re interested.

Yes please. And if you have one yourself, even if you’ve had a photo posted already, please send to

Jim Maxwell

This was taken in a Cessna 172 in early August 2015. The location is near Kalamazoo, Michigan, looking west at around 5500 MSL. I loved how the low sun was reflecting off of Lake Michigan and also filtering through the clouds.

Iain Mulholland

Yesterday reader Iain said hello@:

Here’s another view from a Cirrus SR22, taken early this morning. This is Truckee, California, in the Sierra Nevada, just north of Lake Tahoe. The wonderful Truckee Airport, situated in the Martis Valley, is below me. Just left of the wing tip are the ski hills at Northstar, still with some snow on the runs. In the middle distance you can just see Lake Tahoe, and in the far distance above and left of Northstar are the ski runs at Heavenly, in South Lake Tahoe.

It’s a tough balance to concentrate on a safe takeoff from Truckee airport while soaking in the breathtaking views on climb-out.

Shyam Jha

Our reader’s caption:

This picture was taken from my Cirrus SR22 (same airplane as Jim Fallows’) flying over Salt Lake City at about a mile high. We were flying back from Ogden, UT to my home in Tucson AZ, via a fuel stop in Bryce Canyon. I have many more photos, if you are interested.

We’re definitely interested in more photos, even if you’ve already had one posted: (submission guidelines here). The series has been such a great way to learn about places all over the U.S. Here’s a bit about the mountains above, the Wasatch Range:

The mountains were a vital source of water, timber, and granite for early settlers. Today, 85% of Utah’s population lives within 15 miles (24 km) of the Wasatch Range, mainly in the valleys just to the west. This concentration is known as the Wasatch Front and has a population of just over 2,000,000 residents.

Alex Gilman-Smith

Alex Gilman-Smith, who previously submitted these great canyon shots from the Southwest, also has a gorgeous one from Hawaii:

I’m really enjoying your America by Air series and I thought you might enjoy these pictures I grabbed during a Delta 837 flight from Atlanta to Honolulu. After a lot of blue, we reached Hawaii, where I took this picture of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.

What’s Diamond Head?

It’s the name of a volcanic tuff cone on the Hawaiian island of Oʻahu and known to Hawaiians as Lēʻahi, most likely from lae 'browridge, promontory’ plus ʻahi 'tuna' because the shape of the ridgeline resembles the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin. Its English name was given by British sailors in the 19th century, who mistook calcite crystals on the adjacent beach for diamonds.

Diamond Head is part of the system of cones, vents, and their associated eruption flows that are collectively known to geologists as the Honolulu Volcanic Series, eruptions from the Koʻolau Volcano that took place long after the volcano formed and had gone dormant.

Here’s a closer look:


Christopher Bova

A reader has the straightforward details:

Flying with my daughter over the Hudson River at 800 ft. in a Grumman AA5B Tiger. She took the photo of downtown NYC.

A gorgeous view of soft pastels. But I hope there comes a day when I can completely appreciate this skyline of a city where I lived and loved for nearly a decade without thinking of that dark chapter.