Houston – George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

IAH Airport Map

Click the map to go to Google Maps satellite view of this airport

Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport has one official observation area, located on Lee Rd. across the street from the approach end of runway 27. It offers great views of landing traffic but you’ll be facing south and east so photography may not be too good at times other than late afternoons during the summer.

By far the best spot to watch aircraft at this airport is at the end of Rankin Rd. on the southwest side of the field. Rankin Rd. ends at a gate in the airport fence that is used by construction vehicles. Next to this cul-de-sac is a grass and dirt hill that you can walk up and get an unobstructed view of the two busiest runways, 15L/33R and 15R/33L, which are used for departures. Because of the close proximity to these runways this is an excellent spot for photographing aircraft either climbing out after takeoff or taxiing into position and rolling. Nearly all of the widebody jets use these runways. This spot was closed off for several years starting in 2003 but thanks to an excellent lobbying effort by Houston aviation enthusiasts it has been reopened. In my opinion this is one of the best photo spots I have seen.

Another excellent spot at the Houston IAH airport is the roof level of the parking garages. There are three – Terminal A/B, Terminal C, and Terminal D (International). Each one has a separate entrance. From here, you can look at either the north side ramp or the south side so there are good opportunities for photography. The sun direction makes for good lighting nearly all year, in the mornings or late afternoons. After dark, you can come here with a tripod and photograph international departures from Terminal D. When they push from the gate they usually turn to more of a side view; aircraft pushing from terminals A/B and C usually push with the tail toward the parking garage. The only downside is that you will have to pay the parking fee which can be $3 per hour.  There is some construction happening at the international terminal as of late 2019 so some of the views may be blocked.

Another place you can go is the parking lot of the cargo terminal (see map). There is a row of spaces along the fence here. This spot is located just north of the flight path for landing on runway 26L which is used by most of the international arrivals. The only bad thing is that since you’ll be facing south the light won’t be good for photos during the time when the international widebodies land (early afternoon).

The largest airline here are United and its regional affiliate Expressjet. There are also daily flights from most of the other major airlines in America. There are many foreign airlines flying into Houston including British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa, KLM, Qatar, Emirates, Air China, and Singapore. Most are flying Boeing 777s and Dreamliners, but Lufthansa flies the Airbus A380 and Singapore flies the A350.