Houston William P. Hobby Airport (HOU/KHOU) is the 2nd biggest/busiest airport in Houston, which is the biggest city in Texas. HOU airport handled almost 13,5 million passengers back in 2017, thus being among the 30 busiest airports in the US.
The first aircraft, back then they were small propeller aircraft, landed and started here in 1927, when the airfield was still a private flight area. The first commercial airlines to serve this airfield were Braniff and Eastern Air Lines and back in 1937 the airfield was acquired by the city of Houston. From this point on, the airfield was extended partly and became Houston’s main airport in the early after-war times. In 1950, Pan Am launched the first international flight with its service to Mexico city and the passenger numbers were exploding. Due to the rapid growth a new terminal was opened in 1954 and the airport became Houston International Airport . A few years later, KLM introduced the first intercontinental service to Amsterdam. The airport was renamed after the former Texan governor William P. Hobby in 1967, whose name it still has today, but Hobby’s maximum capacity was reached.
That’s why there was build another big airport for Houston, which was opened in 1969. All scheduled flights were transferred to Houston Intercontinental Airport (later George Bush Intercontinental Airport = IAH/KIAH) then, but Hobby airport was reopened for scheduled flights again in 1971 as an addition to Houston’s new airport, which was already too busy again itself. Since this time, Houston uses these two airports, but the traffic was seperated regarding to special aspects – IAH is being used by all intercontinal flights today and operates as United hub as well and HOU is “just” being used by domestic airlines (mainly Southwest with its hub) and a few services to the Caribbean islands.
Houston Hobby is the home of Southwest Airlines in southeastern Texas and its Houston-hub. The airport is being served by a lot of Southwest Airlines flights as well as some JetBlue, Delta (including feeder airlines) and American Airlines (including feeder airlines) services. Apart from this, there is a lot of business traffic here and sometimes you’ll also see some military activitiy at HOU, but this is quite rare.
Written by Severin Hackenberger and Bas Velders in cooperation with Craig Sieminski (local spotter). Last Visit: October 2018
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|Airport Informations||Runways||04/22||2317m x 46m||Asphalt|
|13R/31L||2317m x 46m||Creton|
|13L/31R||1569m x 30m||Asphalt|
|17/35||1829m x 46m||Creton|
|Terminals||Terminal 1||Central concourse (~30 gates for domestic flights)||International concourse (hand full gates for intl. flights)|
|Spotting Informations||Ladder||Can be helpful sometimes along the fence, but the USAGE of ladders IS NOT RECOMMENDED in the US anyway. Use them at your own risk, you might be sent away then!|
|Car||Recommended as public transport are limited. Uber or Lyft are usually decent options.|
|Restrooms||Around the airport there are just a few restaurants, shops and similar, where restrooms can be found. Apart from this, those can be found inside the terminal.|
|Drinks/Food||Around the airport are just a few hotels, restaurants, shops and similar, where food and drinks can be found. But apart from this, this can be found inside the terminal of course.|
|Hotels||Around the airport there are a few hotels/motels. Apart from this you’ll find a lot inside the nearby city area.|
|Season||The best times to visit Houston are spring (Feb-Apr) and fall (Sep-Nov).|
In these times you’ll mostly have nice temperatures and on average sunny weather with just a few rainy days – no extremely hot temperatures, which just cause tons of heat haze, disturbed by very strong thunderstorms on the one hand like in summer or mostly grey weather with a lot of rain on the other hand like in winter.
|General security information||+++ SECURITY INFORMATION +++|
Spotting in the United States is not always tolerated. There have been very few reports from fellow spotters that they were sent away form the photospots. Spotting at some places is not tolerated. Please be also aware of following facts: The police is quite harsh of endangering the streets safety. If you are standing beside a street and you are visible to drivers, police may ask you to leave as you may distract drivers from keeping their attention onto the road traffic. Some police officers may react rude to our hobby as they suspect terrorism by photography of airplanes.Always have your ID with your (in the unluckily event of ID-checks), stay polite and stay in car when a police officer stops for a check. Do not leave your car unless you are told to do so! The spots underneath are believed to be safe but check the MISC box for further info. Spotterguide.net is not liable for any inconvenience and misbehaviour towards the police of fellow spotters.
|Runway Usage||04/22||Mainly used for arrivals, doesn’t matters from which direction.|
|13R/31L||Mainly used by smaller business jets and sport aircraft.|
|13L/31R||Used in both directions for both actions (arrivals and departures).|
|17/35||Mostly used for smaller business jet departures and arrivals.|
|Spot #1 – NW Viewing area “Lockheed Avenue”|
|WHERE||This spot is located at HOU’s northwestern end by the roadside of “Lockheed Avenue”. There you’ll find a parking area, which was built to watch airplanes during arrival and departure from here. You can easily park your car there and search your favourite position around the parking then.|
For a better angle, you might leave the parking and go away some meters from the arrivalpath into southwestern direction – it’s up to you…
|WHAT||Arrivals onto runway 13R, 13L and 17 and (with a ladder or a thin lens) you can also take pictures of Line-Ups onto runway 13R as well as runway 17.|
|TIME||Runway 13R/L: From early midday till sunset|
Runway 17: From late midday till sunset.
|MISC.||Ladder needed for groundshots only, if your lenses aren’t thin enough to fit through the fenceholes – No ladder needed for normal arrivalshots. Enough parking possibilities around the spot and everything nearby like restrooms and stores.|
|Spot #2 – Travelair Street|
|WHERE||This spot is no exact position, rarther the area infront of the “1940 Air Terminal museum” and on the nearby parkingarea. Your exact position depends on the angle and moment you wanna catch on your pictures as well as on the disturbing light-/electricpoles and the electricconduits around here. You can park your car easily infront the above mentioned museum or in the parking on the opposite street side.|
|WHAT||Departures on runway 31L.|
|TIME||From early midday till sunset.|
|MISC.||No ladder absolutely needed here, but useful, if you want to get shots with at least a bit background. There are enough parking possibilities around the spot, but nothing nearby like restrooms and stores (maybe you can find restrooms inside the museum, which is located on the other roadside).|
The time to take your shots is very limited due to some distrubing powerlines and houses.
B738 departing 31L = 200mm / A320 departing 31L = 230mm
Spot itsslef looks like THIS.
|Spot #3 – Telephone Road footpath|
|WHERE||This spot is located by the roadisde of “Telephone road” on its western side (at the junction with “Brisbane street”) or at its eastern side (at the junction with “Brisbane drive”). Once you arrived at the destinationare you have to two options to choose of:|
|WHAT||Arrivals on runway 04 (and some apron actions as well from the eastern side/1st option).|
|TIME||From (late) afternoon till sunset.|
|MISC.||No ladder needed for arrival shots, only for apron shots from the eastern side, if your lens doesn’t fit through the fenceholes. Ladder or car top can also be useful to get arrivalshots with a bit background from the Eastern side (like the B757 example shot). There aren’t so many parking possibilities around the spot as well as almost no possibilities to find restrooms or food at – just some gas stations are a bit closer.|
DURING RUSHHOURS YOUR VIEW MIGHT BE DISTURBED BY ALL THE VEHICLES PASSING INFRONT THE SPOT AT THE WESTERN SIDE/2ND OPTION! Be aware of their heat destortions as well!
B737-700 = 145mm
|Spot #4 – Bulge|
|WHERE||This spot is located by the roadside of “Braniff”, which runs south of Hobby airport and can be entered easily from “Telephone road”, which runs west of this street and then up north along the airport area. You can park your car by the roadside in the neighborhood easily (for example in “Braniff” or “Old Telephone road”). Then search your favourite position in the spotarea, which may vary due to all those electricconduits and poles.|
|WHAT||Arrivals on runway 04; most 22 departures are too high already.|
You might also catch arrivals onto runway 35 from here.
|TIME||04/22: From sunrise till early afternoon.|
17/35: From late midday till sunset.
|MISC.||No ladder needed. A gas station is just a few meters away, for more facilities a car is needed. Heat haze might be a problem on hot days.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||150 – 350mm|
B737-700 = 210mm / Beech 200 = ~300mm / Gulfstream 5 = 240mm
|Spot #5 – Roadside|
|WHERE||This spot is no exact position, either along “Braniff street”, which runs south of Hobby airport and can be entered easily from the busier “Telephone road”, or at the junction of “Braniff street” and “Old Telephone road”. After you reached the destinationarea, you can choose between two positions:|
|WHAT||Aircrafts lining up onto runway 35 via the last taxiways as well as very late vacators from runway 17 after landing.|
|TIME||Depending on the exact angle the aircraft are taxiing and being shooted in, but best time is around midday – of course, you can also take shots during other daytimes, but then it’s required, that the aircraft is turning into an exact position and so on…|
|MISC.||Ladder definetely needed or at least a car top to get over the two fences here! So you need an object where you can stand on to take your pictures (we used a 1,80m high car top for our example shot below). If you go a few meters to the right, the second fence should be gone, so you could spot the aircraft easier, but then there is no possibility to park your car by the roadside at. Spotting right by the fence with a high ladder is not recommended. If you use the car top, KEEP A LOW PROFILE – only climb it, when the aircraft are coming!|
Heat haze can be a problem here on hot days. A gas station is just a few meters away, for more facilities a car is needed.
PC12 = ~310mm / Hawker 800XP = ~280mm
|Spot #6 – A Avenue|
|WHERE||This spot is located inside “A Avenue”, which springs out of the end of “Randolph street”, which is coming from the south. The spot can reached easily with a car, but parking this one for a long time is difficult here, but you’ll mostly just stop here anway as there isn’t that much action here for spotting for hours. Anyway, once you reached the destinationarea, you can vary the photoposition along the roadside/fence.|
|WHAT||Aircrafts on the apron infront – parked and taxiing aircraft.|
|TIME||Depending on the exact angle, but mostly better around midday.|
|MISC.||Ladder (or at least a cartop) needed to get over the fence well, but you can also take pictures kinda thru the fencewholes. No facilities nearby.|
Some construction services might pass and ask what you’re doing here, as there is a big construction for a Southwesthangar just next to you.
ERJ175 = 30mm
|Spot #7 – SE Viewing area|
|WHERE||This spot is located at HOU’s southeastern end by the roadside of an unnamed street, which connects “Cub lane” and “Monroe blvd”. Along this unnamed street you’ll find a parking area, which was built to watch airplanes during arrival and departure from here. You can easily park your car there and search your favourite position around the parking then.|
For a better angle, you might leave the parking area and go away some meters from the arrivalpath into northwestern direction (towards “Cub lane”) – it’s up to you then…
|WHAT||Arrivals onto runway 31L (and 31R).|
|TIME||From early midday till sunset.|
|MISC.||No ladder needed. Enough parking posibilities here in the parking, but the facilities for food/drinks are a bit farer away – a car is useful for them.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||XXX as we didn’t test the spot ourselfs yet, but you should need a 70-300mm lens (regarding to Jetphotos.net) /// B737-700 (from the parking area directly) = 90mm|
Most example shots were taken from the parking area, so for a better angle you might go some meters away from the arrivalpath.
|Spot #8 – Randolph street|
|WHERE||This spot is located at the end of “Ransolph street” and can only be entered from the southern direction; from “Braniff street”. After you entered the first mentioned “Randolph street” it will lead you to the Wilson Air Center at the street’s northern end. The street is a dead end road and ends at the mentioned Air Center. After you have reached the street’s end, you have a choice as parking is very difficult here and may cause problems however you do it – here are two options:|
|WHAT||All activities on runway 31L/13R, the nearby taxiways as well as parts of GA aprons around the spot.|
|TIME||Apron northwest of this spot might be better in the morning or around early midday, but the runways (both of the 13/31) and taxiways infront will be good from late morning till sunset.|
|MISC.||Ladder or car top needed (to stand on) for groundshots, if your lenses aren’t thin enough to fit through the fenceholes. At the end of the street there are also streetbarriers where you might stand on to spot from, but this option is not that secured.|
Heat haze can be a problem on hot days. Sometimes you’ll also see a security guard or a Air Center staffmember passing by cause of the nearby GA hangar or your car parked on the street, if you do so. Some of them are cool and chilled, but some are also rude and aggressive. Mostly they’ll just ask you, what you’re doing here or to remove your car from where you have parked it. Always be nice7polite and have your ID with you when spotting here for sure.
B727 = 130mm
Example shots were taken from a car top right next to the fence:
Spot itsself looks like THIS.
|Spot #9 – Red parking garage|
|WHERE||This spot is located on the top floor of the red parking garage, which is located north of the normal passenger terminalcomplex. You can easily enter the garage from the main “Hobby Airport Loop”, which runs along the terminal on the departure level – you should also be able to park your car inside this garage. Enter the parking garage and go up to the fourth floor, where you can search your favourite position along the frontrailing of the parking garage then.|
|WHAT||From here you’ll have a nice overview of some parts of the HOU apron as well as also of some runway parts and actions from here like 04 departures/22 arrivals or 31L/R departures. But some actions are too far away or some departures too high already.|
|TIME||This totally depends on the object you wanna spot. But best time will be in early morning or late evening, when one of the two sides (eastern or western view) has good light for sure. Spot is rather good in summer as the sun doesn’t come around that well in winter.|
|MISC.||No ladder needed. Enough parking posibilities in the area here and all needed facilities for food/drinks are close by in the terminal.|
Heat haze can be a problem on hot days. Sometimes you’ll also see a security guard passing by, but this normally doesn’t cause problems. Most of them are cool and chilled and some of them just ask you, what you’re doing here. Always be nice, but have your ID with you when spotting here for sure.
B737 on taxiway = 205mm
Example shots were taken from the western front of the garage: