“Birdwatching” is a concept born of my AvGeek hobby. My mom is a LUV-ly flight attendant for one of the world’s top airlines, and I’ve been flying every which way since I was 11 years old. Now as a content creator, I’ve been able to assemble aircraft videos in stereophonic sound, taking you with me as I marvel at modern engineering.

Birdwatching IAH - June 20, 2020

Six hours worth of takeoffs from 2 to 8pm CDT on runway 15L/33R at Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, Texas.

Atlas Air 767-300ER

June 20, 2020

Runway 15L/33R at Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston, TX.

KLM 777-200ER

June 20, 2020

Runway 15L/33R at Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston, TX.

Saudia 777-300ER

June 20, 2020

Runway 15L/33R at Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston, TX.

United 787-9

June 20, 2020

Runway 15L/33R at Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston, TX.

Omni Air International 767-200ER

June 20, 2020

Runway 15L/33R at Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston, TX.

United 757-300

June 29, 2021

Approaching runway 8R/26L at Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston, TX.

Cargolux 747-8f

June 20, 2020 – Takeoff at runway 15L/33R at Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston, TX.

RECOMMENDED SPOTTING LOCATIONS

Houston, TX

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (KIAH)

Runways 15/33 – Rankin Rd. dead end, east of Aldine-Westfield Road.

  • An elevated mound allows AvGeeks to photo and video aircraft of all sizes as they take off, typically southeast.
  • Please contact (281) 230-1300 to inform airport authorities of your location.

Runway 9/27Lee Rd. Observation Area

  • This is the only official spotting location for IAH. While the area is full of craters in the ground, it’s a prime location for arrivals—mostly narrow-bodies.

Runway Names

A runway is a straight line—180-degrees—so each end is named for their clockwise heading on a 360-degree compass. For example, Runway 27 faces 270 degrees on a compass—due west. The opposite end of that same strip is called Runway 9, as it faces 90 degrees—due east. In addition, of each set of parallel runways will be named L (left), R (right) or C (center) depending on their heading. So a pair of parallel runways will be 9L/27R and 9R/27L—pronounced niner left, two-seven right—with the smaller number always mentioned first. A standalone runway will not have a left/right/center designator.

No more than three parallel runways on the same side of a terminal will share names. If there are four, at least one of those will be named one degree off from the others, with the number increasing north to south, east to west (examples: 8L/26R – 8R/26L – terminal – 9/27 at Bush Intercontinental, or 9L/27R – 9C/27C – 9R/27L – terminal – 10L/28R – 10C/28C – 10R/28L at Chicago O’Hare).

Finally, the next time you’re learning spotting locations, or if you’re looking out the window of your aircraft and see those stretched, 63-foot numbers painted on the runway, keep in mind that if the number is greater than 18, subtract 18 to figure out the other side. If it’s 18 or less, add 18 to figure out the other side. A runway name will never be greater than 36: 360 degrees in a compass.

New to plane spotting? Be sure to download the FlightRadar24 app for all of your spotting at an airport, at home or anywhere in between. Also check out LiveATC.net to hear air traffic control broadcasts from around the world.