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Airport viewing area aims to rekindle our 'wonder of flight'

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One of the more popular places to go sightseeing in the Twin Cities isn't very fancy. It doesn't have much "curb appeal," and in fact, it doesn't even have restrooms or protection from the weather.

What it does have is some spectacular views – if you're into airplanes.

It's the new public observation area at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which opened about a month ago. It's smack dab in the middle of airport property, and allows people to sit and watch airplanes take off and land from a convenient spot.

The viewing area has a parking lot, benches and picnic tables, and a steady stream of people have come by in the weeks it's been open to enjoy the great views.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press caught up with some plane enthusiasts last week who were using the vantage point to photograph some of the airliners as they flew overhead.

Airport spokeswoman Melissa Scovronski told the Pioneer Press the location of the viewing area allows people to see both airport terminals and watch the action on all four runways.

It also harkens back to a time when flying in an airplane was kind of a big deal, notes Star Tribune columnist Gail Rosenblum – there was some mystery and magic to it all, before air travel became so routine.

Indeed, the airport's announcement of the new observation area noted "the wonder of flight will always be front and center" at that space.

“I’ve always thought MSP Airport should have a place for the public to watch airplanes land and take off,” said Dan Boivin, Chair of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, in the news release.

Boivin said the airport used to have an observation deck that was open to the public. But since new airport security measures were put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, only ticketed passengers can get to that area.

As a result, airplane watchers had to get a bit more creative to find good spots around the airport.

Some of the more popular ones are the parking decks at Terminal 1 and the Mall of America, the Post Road cell phone lot and the dog park near the end of Runway 30R, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal notes.

If you want to check out the viewing area while the weather is still nice, here's a map of the location above. You can find a full-size version here.

Access to the viewing area is from the west side of the airport. at the end of Cargo Road, near the FedEx shipping facility.

The space is open every day from dawn to dusk.

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