Plane Spotting at George Bush Intercontinental Airport 7.30.2017 / by Bryan Malloch

Ever since I was a child I have been enamored with big machines.  18 wheelers, cargo ships, cranes and especially planes.  I would check out books from the library with pictures of all of these engineering marvels so that I could practice drawing them.  I specifically remember getting a large hardback book that featured some great cut-away illustrations of all sorts of these machines. I found it amazing that humans crafted all of these massive innovations.

It should be no surprise then that I am still intrigued by the sheer size and power of so many modern machines.  I often find myself looking into the sky when I hear a plane passing overhead to try and identify the make and model.  Occasionally I will carve out some time to drive up to George Bush Intercontinental airport on the north side of Houston so I can get some up close and personal viewing of the planes landing and taking off.  

This was the case this past Sunday as I had some free time and enough lack of common sense to stand out in the Houston sun from 2-5pm and watch as some heavies (aeronautical term for planes weighing over 136 tons) departed along runways 15R and 15L.  Considering it was hovering around 100 degrees, I was fairly confident I would be alone in my suffering but when I arrived I was joined by a steady crowd of 6-10 people who were just enjoying the sights and sounds of some up close aviation action. 

Below are some shots of most of the heavies that departed during my time along the runways on Sunday. 

 'Queen of the Skies'  KLM 747-400 heading for Schipol Airport in Amsterdam

'Queen of the Skies'  KLM 747-400 heading for Schipol Airport in Amsterdam

 Up up and away

Up up and away

The 747 is probably the most famous plane ever developed.  Debuting in 1970 for PanAm, the 747 was the first ever wide body aircraft as well as the first ever double-deck jet. You probably know it by its original nickname 'Jumbo Jet' but even though the latest rendition of the 747 is the longest plane in the world, it is no longer the largest passenger plane to grace the skies.  That title belongs to the A380...seen below.

 Lufthansa Airbus A380-800 taking off with the main IAH control tower in the background. This is a daily flight between Houston and Frankfurt, Germany

Lufthansa Airbus A380-800 taking off with the main IAH control tower in the background. This is a daily flight between Houston and Frankfurt, Germany

 Landing gear up

Landing gear up

 This image is here to provide a little scale (That's a Chevy Tahoe)

This image is here to provide a little scale (That's a Chevy Tahoe)

The A380 is the largest commercial jetliner every created.  Where the 747 has an abbreviated second deck, the A380 has an entire double decker formation.  Weighing in at 1,265,000 lbs fully loaded, the A380 uses 4 Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines (on most configurations) to carry it up to 8,500 nautical miles.  Fun Fact: The A380 currently operates the second and third longest flights in the world and is noted for having the quietest cabin of all airliners.

 Air France 777-300ER with the control tower keeping a watchful eye

Air France 777-300ER with the control tower keeping a watchful eye

 Eva Air 777 lining up to take off to the north on runway 15L. All other flights were taking off to the south on Sunday so this was an unexpected change of pace

Eva Air 777 lining up to take off to the north on runway 15L. All other flights were taking off to the south on Sunday so this was an unexpected change of pace

 Off to London Heathrow!

Off to London Heathrow!

The Boeing 777 is probably my favorite plane of them all.  The reason quad engine jets like the 747 and A380 are fading away is because long haul jets like the 777, 787 and A350 are able to fly further much more efficiently with only two engines.  They are also cheaper in regards to maintenance as there are fewer engines to service and keep running.  Don't let the fact there are only two engines fool you though, the GE90s on this 777-ER have the same diameter as the fuselage of the 737!

 United 767-300 already well above the runway by the time it got to me

United 767-300 already well above the runway by the time it got to me

The last of the heavies I was able to photograph was the Boeing 767.  The 767 was built as a smaller wide-body option to the 747 and debuted in 1982.  The plane proceeded the 777 but there are still plenty 767s flying around the world today as a medium to long haul aircraft.  There are also several military variations of the 767 including tankers that refuel other combat aircraft in mid-air.

 United Boeing 757 rotates off of runway 15L at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston

United Boeing 757 rotates off of runway 15L at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston

While technically not a heavy, the 757 is still quite a bit larger than the standard 737s and A319s, A320s and A321s you're most likely to fly on domestic routes.  The 757 was designed congruently with the 767 as a narrow body airliner that could fly to more remote airports than other wide body jets.  The 757 was discontinued in 2004 and a total of 1,050 were built and delivered to 54 customers.