Bernal Heights is prime territory for those who enjoy scanning the skies to watch for avian life. It also happens to be a great location for aviation enthusiasts, if you prefer your birds with aluminum wings. Just as bird watchers are keenly attuned to the patterns and territories of local wildlife, planespotters in the neighborhood can tell at a glance where a plane is going, or where it has come from.
Indeed, the local flight patterns are pretty easy to follow, once you familiarize yourself with this map, which reveals the invisible thoroughfares commercial aircraft use when coming and going from SFO and OAK.
Let’s take a closer look at the airspace above Bernal Heights:
As you can see, Bernal sits at the intersection of several different flight paths, which provides an interesting mix of traffic. From ground level, here’s what all this looks like:
Low-Flying Aircraft on the North Side of Bernal, Headed Toward Sutro Tower Departures from Oakland Airport, eventually headed south. Usually twinjets; often Southwest Airlines.
Low-Flying Aircraft Turning in a Southward Arc Above Bernal Hill Departures from SFO, headed south. Usually midsize twinjets that departed from SFO runways 1L or 1R.
High-Flying Aircraft Heading South Above West Bernal or La Lengua Aircraft inbound from the Pacific or Northwest, on approach for landing at SFO. (Often larger jets, including 747s. Many contrails.)