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BHM-ATL-IAH Spotting Trip Report  
User currently offlineBruce From United States of America, joined May 1999, 5099 posts, RR: 13
Posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 5498 times:

This isn't your typical trip report. This wasn't your typical trip either! I decided to go away for a few days to Houston to do some spotting and shooting, knowing that others have said they have an excellent airport for this. Plus, I also visited HOU, and drove up to DFW and DAL. And, of course, a plane ride on Widget Airways (also known as Delta) there and back!

BHM-ATL: The 1st leg was on a 757, ship # 135 (N135DL). The BHM airport in lovely Birmingham Alabama is kind of dead. Not much action to see or shoot. For travelling its great because you go in and out quick. No waiting at the counter or security. Flight #950 was on time and not quite full. No snacks or bev's at all; it's only a 30 minute flight! This was my 1st time flying out of BHM. We taxied to runway 24, and I swear the 757 didn't eat up half the runway before we were climbing like a rocket. Ahhh,, now I remember why I love the 757 so much. By the time we got over the other end of the runway, where the cargo ramp is, we were already very high. We made a right turn directly over downtown Birmingham and headed northeast, passing over Gadsden Alabama and Cedartown Georgia, and over the Fulton County Airport. I was hoping we would make the approach from the south, since i was sitting in 38A. But as soon as I saw the Georgia Dome and downtown Atlanta directly below, I knew it was not meant to be. We flew east, then turned final and landed on runway 8R. At touchdown we took a nice big bounce, which doesn't exactly help me create "uploadable" photos with my camera. oh well.....

I had a 2.5 hour layover, and since this was a Spotting Trip I decided to cruise the concourses. Nothing happening at International; I had missed the SA 744 and the other European flights arrive after 1pm. I saw from the plane a couple of those new AirTran JetConnect RJs but by the time I got to concourse "C" they were gone. I did get a few photos, including a very unusual "Texas BlueBonnet" color scheme on a Comair CRJ.

ATl-IAH: This flight was on a MD88, N969DL, and had about 40 unsold seats in coach. Mine was 34E, right opposite the Galley. Nobody was next to me so I had plenty of room. Flying time was to be 1 hr 38 minutes, and was ontime. We pushed back and made our way to runway 8L. The engines were making a very annoying shrill whine during taxi, but inflight they got quieter. Food service consisted of snacks & drinks. For thsoe of you who know your geography, we passed over or near Anniston, Talladega, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa all in Alabama; Jackson, Mississippi (nice airport overview shot of JAN!); and the Mississippi River. We were at 31,000 feet, and it then got cloudy and stayed that way until near Houston. Also got some nice inflight shots w/the clouds on approach. Again, i was hoping we'd fly by the airport so I could get an overview shot but once again it was not meant to be. We touched down smoothly on runway 8 and rode to the "A" concourse. Now, IAH is undergoing renovation but the "A" terminal is just old and crappy looking. At this airport you cannot go to other terminals without passing security so I only got 1 shot at the gate and I was done.....

So that was my trip.......my next post within this thread will be a Spotting Report.


Bruce Leibowitz - Jackson, MS (KJAN) - Canon 50D/100-400L IS lens
3 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineBruce From United States of America, joined May 1999, 5099 posts, RR: 13
Reply 1, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 5470 times:

I spent 3 whole days doing nothing but Spotting. I even rented the ultimate "spotters vehicle": a Nissan Frontier Pickup w/a non-slip hard Tonneau Cover! This meant I could hop up on the back to take pics and be able to see over fences.

IAH Airport get 5-stars from me. For those of you not familiar with it, here's the details. You've got Rankin Rd., which dead-ends at the 15R/33L fence about 2/3 of the way down. There are 2 parallel runways in use here, and you can get rotation and climbout shots. Many times they will tell planes on 15R to turn right heading 250 after takeoff, so they are turning right over your head which makes for some interesting angles. All types of planes use these runways from the Brasilia up to the 747/777. By now you've all seen Joe Pries' shot with the 2 planes climbing out together? Well, I shot one just like it & will upload it. Cops don't bother people here either. Then, there is Lee Rd. on the east side of the airport. Here, you get all your approach shots and if you have a wide lens you can get directly underneath the plane. I also got some interesting shots of planes crabbing on landing. An awesome sight. This area is called the official "Aircraft Viewing Area" and is always crowded. Third, there is the "A" & "B" garage. You have to pay $3 for 3 hours, but from the roof you are close to terminal A and B action and climbout shots if the 15/33 traffic is coming off 33. You cannot shoot the International Terminal from here, but they all must pass this garage when they taxi out. You also get a unobstructed view of all of runway 8. This airport is the best I have seen for spotting.

Houston-Hobby: I went down there and found 3 spots but not much traffic. it is much slower, however, under the right conditions you can get some upload-quality shots. I got mine from the parking lot of an abandoned factory just off the hold point of runway 17, but you can also shoot from the end of 17 and from the end of 12. You just have to have lots of time and be patient to wait for traffic. I will give HOU 3 stars.

Dallas is 250 miles away. First lets go to Love Field. Not many people have uploaded photos from their garage, but it's really not a bad place to shoot from. You get a full view of the entire runway and taxiway, and it's a little busier than HOU. Though when I was there all the traffic was 737-200 WN but good pics CAN be had there. I will give it 4 stars.

Now DFW: I visited the famous Founders Plaza and was not really that impressed. You are fairly far away from where the "big" jets fly, and only under the correct conditions traffic will use 17R which means they taxi right by you. When I was there, the tower was telling pilots of a Wind Shear Alert near runway 18, so I think that is why they sent some traffic to 17R. The pilot of an AA 757 gave me a big thumbs up as I shot an extreme closeup. But a total of only 3 planes used this route all afternoon. My pics from departing traffic on 17L are kind of small, even with a 300mm lens. I have to give DFW only 3 stars based on my experience. Now maybe someone who lives in the Dallas area can go out there frequently enough to hit the right time to see closeup action, but for the out of town visitor it's not the best.

You're always guaranteed good shots at IAH no matter what runway they use. And as for variety, how is this list: aircraft of nearly every type; CO, AA, US, NWA, BA, LH, KLM, AF, FedEX, and yes, even WN!!! i was surprised that WN flies there since all their action is across town at HOU. When you see the British Airways, Air France, and CO 777 in queue for takeoff you will think you are in Europe...but action like that is as close as Houston. I have 100's of pictures now, and will be uploading them. I've decided to do it in order, in other words the 1st ones to be uploaded will be from the trip there, and all this is going to take weeks.

My next post will be the return flight....


Bruce Leibowitz - Jackson, MS (KJAN) - Canon 50D/100-400L IS lens
User currently offlineBruce From United States of America, joined May 1999, 5099 posts, RR: 13
Reply 2, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 5460 times:

Now for the return, and more pics!!!

IAH-ATL: Delta flight 1548, another MD88 N914DL which I've already shot:

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Bruce Leibowitz

I got to the airport at 6am for the 7:15 flight and had to wait in a very, very long security line. The sun was just coming up, and sitting in 34E again it was going to be very difficult to shoot any shots into the sun. We pushed back ontime and headed for 15L. I did get one awesome shot during takeoff showing the Rankin Rd. viewing spot as we took off, and it is "upload quality". I was very surprised at the route we were given. We flew east from Houston, right along the Gulf of Mexico!!! But we were going to Atlanta!!!!!
We flew at 31,000 feet past Port Arthur, Lake Charles Louisiana, Baton Rouge, Lake Ponchartrain, Biloxi Mississippi, and finally turned north. Weather was clear up to Alabama then cloudy up to Atlanta. I was praying we would approach from the north so I could get an ATL overview shot...but damn!!!!! The 2nd time it was not meant to happen!!!!!!!! We aporoached from the south and landed on 27L. I could see the South Garage in the distance where I had taken so many pics this year, including the one above. After we parked, I asked the Captain if I could shoot some pics in the flight deck and he agreed, so watch for those to be uploaded too.

Again, I had a 2.5 hour layover so I went hunting for good photo opportunities. I found only a couple, before it was time to board my final flight of 2002: a 727!!!!

ATL-BHM: Delta's 1711, N518DA. I had seat 28F this time, and it had a window that was flaking off plastic and moisture between the panes. Surprisingly my photos came out decent, including one at takeoff with our shadow below us! This flight, like all the others, was 80% full so the mniddle seat in my row was empty. This was to be a 30-minute flight so there was no food service. It was ontime, and we taxied down to runway 8L again. Our takeoff roll lasted a long time, but I still like the 727 classic. My last 727 ride was 1996. This one had the hushkits which are required now, and it seemed very quiet in flight. We made our approach to BHM's runway 24 and had the smoothest landing I've seen. I did approach the Captain this time and asked if I could take some pics, so hopefully you will see some on this site soon. Delta will not have anymore 727s after March 2003- said the Captain!

All things considered, my experience with Delta was good as usual. Since I'm doing the pics in order the ones from this leg will be the last  Sad but this trip will yield some very good photo material. I'd highly recommend IAH to anyone who wants a quick and easy spotting trip. And dont forget to rent a pickup!! Budget's rate was only $5 a day more than a cheap little econo-car.


Bruce Leibowitz - Jackson, MS (KJAN) - Canon 50D/100-400L IS lens
User currently offlineArtsyman From United States of America, joined Feb 2001, 4748 posts, RR: 32
Reply 3, posted (13 years 5 months 2 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 5491 times:

Nice report, it was nice meeting you at IAH (Green Bug) and seeing previews of some of the photographs you will be uploading.

Glad you made it home safely


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