Business Treaveler logo

Travel news, reviews and intel for high-flyers

New Aviation Enthusiast Paradise Opens at Charlotte Douglas International Airport

The Airport Overlook, with playgrounds, food trucks, and picnic tables, is open to the general public; no plane ticket required

by Lauren Smith

June 13, 2024

Photo: Courtesy of Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Aviation enthusiasts have a new perch at North Carolina’s Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT): a brand-new observation area, complete with a playground, exhibitions, parking space for food trucks, and, of course, views over the airfield.

Charlotte Douglas’s previous overlook shut in October 2022 to make way for its future fourth parallel runway. The airport, which has offered aviation aficionados space to watch planes take off and land since 1937, provided a temporary observation area while constructing a replacement.

Photo: Courtesy of Charlotte Douglas International Airport

And that replacement is worth the wait. At 600,000 square feet, the new $8 million Airport Overlook is full of amenities to make a day of plane spotting comfortable for the entire family.

That includes LED lighting, shaded areas, restrooms with baby changing stations, pet relief spaces, bicycle racks, and paved and accessible parking for cars and buses.

Photo: Courtesy of Charlotte Douglas International Airport

When observers get hungry, they can grab a bite to eat from food trucks parked on site and claim a covered picnic table.

To keep kids entertained, the space also has two age-specific, aviation-themed playgrounds, complete with a play-safe runway, a mini air traffic control tower with a slide, and climbable structures shaped like a plane, a fuel truck, and a baggage cart.

Informative exhibits throughout the space outline the aviation history of the Carolinas, which began in 1903 with the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk. Other displays teach observers how to identify planes landing at CLT, detail the scene behind a Boeing 747, and describe how runways are built and named.

Photo: Courtesy of Charlotte Douglas International Airport

While they watch today’s planes land, visitors can also marvel at a retired F-4 Phantom, a U.S. fighter jet that flew during the Vietnam War and Cold War.

There’s also a memorial to U.S. Airways Flight 1016, which crashed while trying to land at CLT during severe weather on July 2nd, 1994, killing 37 people and injuring 20 others.

And, of course, the main attraction is the view over multiple runways. As a bonus, the spot also provides sight of the Charlotte skyline

Photo: Courtesy of Charlotte Douglas International Airport

to delight both locals and travelers alike.

“The Airport knows how important the Overlook is to the local community and we worked diligently to create a place that people of all ages will enjoy,” said Jack Christine, chief infrastructure officer at Charlotte Douglas. “This space showcases many displays and features that will educate, inspire, and create lasting memories.”

The new Airport Overlook is located under two miles from the terminal. It’s open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Access is free and you don’t need a plane ticket to turn up.

Photo: Courtesy of Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Unfortunately, if you want to see the visit during a layover or before a flight, there’s currently no bus link between the terminal and the overlook. But the short distance means it’s just a quick, inexpensive taxi ride away.

Elsewhere on the airport site, CLT’s terminal is also getting an upgrade. The $231m expansion of Concourse A is due to be completed this year, adding ten new gates and additional retail space.

Delta Air Lines will occupy seven of these gates, equipping it for growth at the country’s tenth-busiest airport, where American Airlines has historically dominated. Delta will also open its first Sky Club lounge at CLT to serve its passengers this year.