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Photo Copyright: Blair McFarlain

Spotting guide for: KIAH - George Bush Intercontinental

George Bush Intercontinenal Airport is the largest airport in the Houston area.

IAH currently ranks 3rd in the United States among U.S. airports with scheduled non-stop domestic and international service (over 181 destinations), with 39.7 million passengers through IAH in 2005 and 48 million passengers through IAH and HOU.

  • With 30 destinations in Mexico, IAH offers service to more Mexican destinations than any other US airport.
  • 9th busiest airport in the U.S. for total passengers (from ACI-NA, 2005 N. Amer. Traffic Report).
  • 6th busiest airport in the world for total aircraft movements (ACI-NA World Traffic Report 2005).
  • 7th largest international passenger gateway in the nation (ACI-NA World Traffic Report 2005).
  • 20 passenger airlines.
    5 passenger terminals.
  • Terminal E for international travelers.
  • 14 all-cargo airlines at IAH, handled more than 751 million pounds of cargo in 2005.
  • Houston headquartered Continental Airlines largest hub with over 700 daily departures.
  • New FAA air traffic control tower.
  • New Terminal Link above ground inter-terminal passenger train between terminals B, C, D and E.
  • New $440 million, 880,000 sq. foot Terminal E and Federal Inspection Services (FIS) with 84 primary inspection booths that can process over 4,500 passengers per hour.
  • More than 550,000 sq. ft. of cargo space in the new IAH CargoCenter.

Source: Houston Airport System

Map courtesy of Google Maps mapping service
Guide to map icons:

Publicly accessible areas that do not require any prior notification to spot.
Areas such as parking garages that require prior approval or notification to airport security to spot.
Areas that to not require notification to spot, but are at your own risk!  You may be asked to leave by Airport security or by police.
Restricted area!  Do not spot here, or you will be asked to leave by airport security or police.
Food / Drink!  Spotting sometimes requires a lot of time out in the sun.  Make sure you are drinking plenty of water, and get food when you need it.
These orange lines indicate where the final approach path of a runway intersect or pass near a spotting area.

WARNING: The information provided on this page is intended for the sole use of aviation enthusiasts to properly practice their hobby. HoustonSpotters.net or its members assumes no responsibility for any actions and/or conduct during their hobby practices, or any consequences of following the instructions provided here. The user acknowledges and understands that aviation enthusiasm can draw attention and suspicion from others, and all enthusiasts are encouraged to act in a respectful and open manner towards law enforcement officers, to carry their ID on them at all times, and to report truly suspicious activity to law enforcement agencies.

Site 1: Lee Road
Lee road is the only official public spotting area for IAH.

It offers an incredible view of planes coming in. The planes are about 100 feet above your head when they pass over! It is a large gravel parking lot located on the edge of Runway 27. It has a gate that is opened in the morning and closed when it gets dark, by airport security. There are pylons that mark the area along with several large yellow garbage cans for any trash you find in the area or take there yourself.

It is very important to pick up trash in this area even if it is not your own as something could get sucked into the engine of a jet.  HAS has also provided portable restroom facilities on site at Lee road.  We would like to thank HAS for providing and maintaining this feature of the spotting park.

No prior notification is required to spot in this area.


From Hwy 59:

Take the Will Clayton Parkway exit (Left if coming from the south right if you're coming from the north)
You will go through one red light with a Jack in the box on the right. Proceed west on Will Clayton until you come to Lee Road. The road is not directly across Will Clayton so you will have to take the left and U Turn to get to Lee Road. Turn right when you see the sign for Lee Road. The spotting area is ahead on your left. (See the Map Area 1)

From Beltway 8:

While on Beltway 8 take the Airport exit for JFK Blvd North. You will go though several red lights. Follow the road until it curves to the right. Follow the signs for the Hwy 59 / Airport Exit. After the road curves to the right it will turn into Will Clayton Parkway. Follow the road until you see the sign for Lee Road. Turn right on Lee Road The spotting area is ahead on your left.

Examples of photos taken from Lee Road:

Site 2: A/B Garage
The A/B garage spot is the 7th or 8th level on the north side of the parking garage complex located in the middle of the airport.

From the A/B garage you have a good vantage point of the planes landing on 26 L/R as they are taxiing out. You also have a good vantage point of them touching down as they land on Rwy 08 L/R.

You also have an excellent view of the ramp area just beneath you as you are about 70 ft. in the air.

Most takeoffs occur on 15 L/R and most planes will taxi by you in this area. If you walk across to the south side of the south side of the parking garage you can catch the action of planes taxiing and taking off on 15 L/R.

You can get to the garages by following the signs from either Will Clayton Parkway, or JFK Boulevard.

The A/B garage level 7 is a good all-weather spotting location since you are able to get most traffic at some point during their landing, taxi, or takeoff but you also have the advantage of ducking under the garage in the case of rain or heat.

The garages are one of the spots that require you to inform HAS (Houston Airport System) security before spotting or taking photos there. Call in to security either when you get there, or shortly before.

Their phone number is 281-230-1300

Examples of photos taken from A/B garage:

A/B South

A/B North

Site 3: D/E Garage
The D/E garage gives you a great vantage point of the international arrivals as well as part of the south ramp. The only disadvantage to the D/E garage is that unlike the A/B garage, you can't easily duck under the roof for cover. The only place to spot from is on the roof.

You can get to the garages by following the signs from either Will Clayton Parkway, or JFK Boulevard.

The garages are one of the spots that require you to inform HAS (Houston Airport System) security before spotting or taking photos there. Call in to security either when you get there, or shortly before.

Their phone number is 281-230-1300

Examples of photos taken from D/E Garage:

Site 4: DB Schenker(East Cargo, Formerly BAX Global)
The DB Schenker (Formerly Bax Global) parking lot (see Google map above for exact location), is technically private property. If you are asked to leave, you must comply with their wishes. With that said, we have not been run off from there, as it is very publicly accessible.

This spot provides a view of planes landing on 26L, and you are nearly underneath them.

This spot requires that you inform HAS (Houston Airport System) security before spotting or taking photos there. Call in to security either when you get there, or shortly before.

Their phone number is 281-230-1300

Examples of photos taken from Bax (East Cargo):

Site 6: C Garage

C Garage is located right in the middle (east-west speaking) of the row of garages. On the south side you have a great view of the United traffic as well as many heavies taxiing by for takeoff on the 15's.

The north side gives you a good view of the arrivals on 26L/8R since it is about as much in the middle of the runway as you can get.

There are two actual structures for C garage, and both will yield different results. One is more to the west and you'll get planes that are near / closer to the Marriott hotel and the east side gets you closer to the international terminal.

You can get to the C garage by driving and following the signs, or you can park on D/E garage and walk or drive over on one of the lower levels. It is a fair bit of walking, especially if you want to get to the west side so be prepared.

It also gives you a nice angle on the north side of the D/E garage. Sometimes the planes parking on D4 or D5 will not be at an angle to get a clean shot from the roof of the D/E garage. This does put you a bit further away, but you get the better angle. 200mm is the minimum you need here but 400 is recommended, if you plan to shoot all the way to D/E from C.

Examples of photos taken from C Garage:

Site 7: Rankin Road

Rankin road is the best spot to take photos of planes departing the 15 / 33 runways in the afternoon with the sun setting behind you.

It is located at the end of Rankin Road, just off of Greens road.

Airport security has asked that we pass along this information:

  • Please park your vehicles on the asphalt surface, not in the grass.
  • Please use the established call-in procedures to advise the Airport Communication Center (ACC) of your presence at the location, this would be calling 281-230-1300 and advising that you are at the Rankin Road spotting location.
  • Please do not climb the perimeter fence.
  • As in all situations, use common sense and safety precautions to maintain the safety and security of yourself and your posessions.
  • Keep in mind that this location can become heavily used during periods of construction at IAH.
  • As with the other spotting locations, please report suspicious activities to the ACC at the phone number listed above.

Photo by Thomas Millard

Photo by Thomas Millard

Photo by Thomas Millard

Photo by Thomas Millard

Communications Frequencies:
119.100ApproachRunway 8L / 26R (during peak traffic times)
124.350ApproachApproach - West
120.650ApproachRunway 8R / 26L (during peak traffic times)
120.050ApproachApproach - East
134.000ApproachRunway 9/27 (during peak traffic times)
ASOSAutomatic Surface Observation Service (ASOS) (281-443-6397)
124.050ATISAutomatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) (281-443-1744)
133.600Class BHouston Class B / Departure East
123.800Class BHouston Class B West
134.450Class BHouston Class B South
119.700Class BHouston Class B North
128.100Clearance DeliveryClearance Delivery
132.250DepartureHouston Departure North/East
126.675DepartureHouston Departure West
127.125DepartureHouston Departure South
122.400Flight ServiceFlight Service Station (FSS)
118.575GroundGround - West
121.700GroundGround - East
126.225OtherConstruction NOTAM Information
130.825Ramp ControlContinental - Ramp Control - North (Terminals C and D)
131.275Ramp ControlContinental - Ramp Control - South (Terminals C and E)
121.625Ramp ControlContinental - Ramp Control - West (Terminals A and B)
120.725TowerRunway 8L/26R
125.350TowerRunway 8R/26L
135.150TowerRunway 9/27
127.300TowerRunways 15L/33R and 15R/33L

  KIAH Airport Diagram
 Printable version