Houston Hobby Airport (HOU)
Click the map to go to Google Maps satellite view of this airport
Houston’s other major airport also has some excellent viewing & photography spots. Hobby Airport is located on the southeast side of the city, off of Interstate 45 about a half hour drive from Intercontinental Airport. Hobby’s largest airline is Southwest (using 18 of the 25 gates plus all 5 gates in their new international terminal) but there are also flights from Delta (Atlanta), American Eagle (Dallas), JetBlue (Boston & New York), and general aviation traffic from Mexico. Most of the aircraft you will see here are 737 and Airbus A320 types, along with some regional and business jets.
Hobby Airport has two official observation lots, each marked with a sign. The first is on the west side, just off Telephone Rd. adjacent to the fence near the departure end of runways 12R and 17. From here, you’ll get a very good view of aircraft landing and taxiing into position for takeoff on these runways. The best time for photography here is the afternoon.
Not far from this location is the famous 1940 Air Terminal. This was Hobby Airport’s original terminal building from 1940 to 1954. In 1978, it was to be demolished but local aviation enthusiasts saved it. The building then sat vacant for another 20 years ending up in poor condition. Restoration began in 1998 and at this time the building and ground floor have been restored to the original art deco style and turned into a museum featuring artifacts from the early days of aviation in Houston. Phase 3 of the restoration will take another $1.5 million and restore the two upper floors & tower which will also include a restaurant. Every third Saturday of the month the museum conducts a “Wings and Wheels” fundraising day during which they have aircraft on display on the ramp behind the building. From this ramp, you can get an excellent view of today’s aircraft taxiing south to the FBO or landing/departing on nearby runway 17. For a small donation you can tour the ground floor museum any day of the week – a diversion which I highly recommend. The museum is located on Travelair St. To get here from Telephone Rd, just turn on either Larson, Neuhaus, or Nelms streets and go two blocks to the end, which is Travelair St.
The second observation lot at Hobby Airport is on the south side of the field, just west of the approach path to runway 30L. You will be able to get a great view of aircraft when they’re landing on this runway, but it is a little far from the runway’s hold point for aircraft departing. Unlike the north observation lot, this one is not up against the perimeter fence. You’ll be facing north or northeast, so the best time for photography would be in the afternoon or earlier during the winter months. To get here, either go south on Monroe St. on the east side of the airport to Braniff St., which will be on the right just past the end of the runway or, from Telephone Rd, turn east onto Braniff St. and follow it across the south end of the airport to just past the end of the runway; the road turns to go toward Monroe St. and the observation lot is there.
Runway 4/22 is also used frequently but unfortunately there is not a good spot from which to watch that traffic. But overall, this airport is planespotter & photographer friendly and offers some great vantage points for photography. Between Hobby and Intercontinental airports there is definitely much to see in Houston for the aviation enthusiast! Below are a couple of sample photos from the north observation lot (click the thumbnails for a larger view):