Washington Dulles International Airport

From Academic Kids

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Aerial photo
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Terminal photo

Washington Dulles International Airport (IATA airport code IAD, ICAO airport code KIAD) serves the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area. It is named after John Foster Dulles, United States Secretary of State under Dwight D. Eisenhower. It serves as a hub for United Airlines and as the primary hub of Independence Air.

The inception of low-cost carrier Independence Air in 2004 propelled IAD from being the 24th busiest airport in the United States to 5th, and one of the top 10 busiest in the world. Also a major station for jetBlue, it has become the largest low-cost hub in the United States. On a typical day, 1,800 to 2,000 flights are now handled at Dulles, up from 1000 to 1200 in 2003. It remains the second busiest trans-Atlantic gateway on the Eastern Seaboard.

The airport occupies approximately 11,000 acres (44.5 km2) of land 26 miles (41.8 km) west of downtown Washington, straddling the border of Fairfax County and Loudoun County, Virginia. It is located partly in Chantilly and partly in Dulles, west of Herndon and southwest of Sterling. It is operated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA).


Transportation to and from the Airport

Dulles is accessible via the Dulles Toll Road (Virginia Route 267), U.S. Highway 50, or Virginia State Highway 28. The Washington Metro currently offers only an express bus service, the 5A, but plans for a spur of the Orange Line, called the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit Project, were approved in June 2004. Construction should be complete in 2015. Greyhound Lines offers through service to several Northern Virginia towns.

History and background

At the end of World War II, growth in aviation and in the Washington metropolitan area led Congress to pass the Washington Airport Act of 1950, providing federal backing for a second airport. The current site was selected by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958.

Civil engineering firm Ammann and Whitney was named lead contractor. The main buildings of the airport were designed by famed Finnish architect Eero Saarinen. The first new airport of the jet age, many of its architectural features were experimental at the time.

The airport was dedicated by President John F. Kennedy on November 17, 1962. It was the first airport in the world specifically designed for jet aircraft, but its first flight was an Eastern Airlines Super Electra turboprop, arriving from Newark International Airport in New Jersey.

While initially considered a white elephant due to its distance from downtown Washington, Dulles has steadily grown. Restrictions placed on the type of aircraft at and distance of routes from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport have meant most long-distance flights to the area must fly to Dulles or Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Maryland.

As the airport expanded in the 1980s and 1990s, operations outgrew the main terminal, and new mid-field concourses were constructed.

A flight from Dulles, American Airlines Flight 77, was crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

In December 2003, the National Air and Space Museum opened the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles. The museum annex houses a Concorde, the Enola Gay B-29, the Space Shuttle Enterprise, and other famous aerospace artifacts, particularly those too large for the main building on the National Mall.


The signature Dulles main terminal houses ticketing, baggage claim, and other support facilities. While it houses a number of gates, most passengers embark or disembark from the midfield terminals.

Mobile lounges

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A mobile lounge loading passengers

Dulles is the one of the only airports in the world that uses the mobile lounge system. The "lounge" consists of a 54-by-16-foot carriage mounted on a scissor truck, capable of carrying 102 passengers. They were designed by the Chrysler Corporation in association with the Budd Company. The conveyances are sometimes nicknamed "moon buggies" for the similar appearance of their tires with those of the Lunar Rover.

The "Plane Mate" is an evolutionary variation on the concept. They are similar in appearance to mobile lounges, but can raise themselves on screws to "mate" directly with an aircraft. This allows passengers to deplane directly aboard and be carried to the main terminal.

By shuttling from the main terminal directly to a midfield jet ramp, passengers could avoid long walking distances amidst weather, noise, and fumes on the tarmac. But the advent of the Jetway and construction of the midfield concourses diluted the system's advantages.

Today, the airport uses 19 mobile lounges to transfer passengers between the midfield concourses and to and from the main terminal building, as well as 30 plane mates. The MWAA plans to retire the mobile lounge system altogether in favor of an underground people mover and pedestrian walkway system, as part of a major engineering program that will also add a concourse to the main terminal and give the airport a fourth runway.

Main terminal

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The terminal ceiling is suspended in an elegant curve above the luggage check-in area.

The main terminal is a very well regarded building; its roof is a suspended catenary providing a wide enclosed area unimpeded by columns. It was recognized by the American Institute of Architects in 1966. It houses ticketing, baggage claim, and information facilities, as well as the International Arrivals Building for passenger processing.

There are two sets of gates in the main terminal. They are waiting areas for airlines which lack permanent physical gates and therefore use Plane Mates. The "T" Gates, formerly used by United Express, are closed for renovations.

"H" Gates

Midfield Terminals

There are three midfield terminal buildings: One contains the A and B Midfield Concourses, another the C and D Midfield Concourses, and the last the G Midfield Concourse. The C and D Concourses, completed in 1983, were designed to be temporary. Their replacements are under development. The A and B Concourses are the first of the permanent Midfield Concourses. The G Concourse is also permanent, its name reflective of the long-term plan for concourse development.

Midfield Concourse A

  • Independence Air — Albany, Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Burlington, Charleston SC, Charleston WV, Charlotte, Chicago O'Hare, Cleveland, Columbia, Columbus, Detroit, Greensboro, Greenville/Spartanburg, Hartford, Huntsville, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Knoxville, Las Vegas, Louisville, Manchester NH, Nashville, Newburgh, New York JFK, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Portland ME, Providence, Raleigh/Durham, Rochester, San Diego, Savannah, Syracuse, Tampa, West Palm Beach, White Plains

Midfield Concourse B

Midfield Concourse C

  • Air Canada — Montreal, Ottawa
  • Lufthansa — Frankfurt
  • Ted — Cancun [starts Nov. 15], Fort Lauderdale, Miami [starts Sept. 7], Orlando, San Juan [starts Dec. 18]
  • United Airlines — Amsterdam, Boston, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Cancun, Chicago (O'Hare International Airport), Denver, Frankfurt, Ft. Lauderdale, Hartford, Las Vegas, London (Heathrow), Los Angeles, Mexico City, Miami, Munich, New Orleans, Oakland, Orlando, Paris (de Gaulle), Phoenix, Portland OR, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose CA, San Jose CR, San Juan, Sao Paulo, Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa, Zurich
  • United Express

Midfield Concourse D

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A mirrored display confronts travellers at the entrance to Concourse D

Midfield Concourse G

  • United Express (Air Wisconsin/Chautauqua/Mesa/Shuttle America/Trans States) — Albany, Allentown, Atlanta, Austin, Beckley, Binghamton, Bluefield, Boston, Buffalo, Burlington, Charleston SC, Charleston WV, Charlotte, Charlottesville, Cleveland, Columbia, Columbus, Dayton, Detroit (Metropolitan), Fort Lauderdale, Greensboro, Greenville/Spartanburg, Harrisburg, Hartford, Houston (Bush), Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Knoxville, Manchester NH, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Montreal (Dorval/Trudeau), Nashville, New Orleans, Newark, New York (John F. Kennedy International Airport), New York (LaGuardia Airport), Norfolk, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland ME, Providence, Raleigh/Durham, Richmond, Roanoke, Rochester, St. Louis, Savannah, State College, Syracuse, Toronto, White Plains, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

Dulles in fiction

The action movie Die Hard 2: Die Harder is set primarily at Dulles Airport. The plot of the film involves the takeover of the airport's tower and communication systems by terrorists, led by Colonel Stuart (William Sadler), who subsequently use the equipment to fool an airliner to crash into the runway. It is up to L.A. cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) to stop them from downing more planes, one of which has his wife aboard. The film was not shot at Dulles and the reputed geography in it is wrong. The Dulles stand-in is believed to be one of the Los Angeles area airports and the now-closed Stapleton International Airport in Denver.

Portions of all three sequels to the disaster movie Airport were filmed at Dulles: Airport 1975, with Charlton Heston, Karen Black and George Kennedy; Airport '77, with Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, and Jimmy Stewart; and The Concorde: Airport '79, with Robert Wagner, Susan Blakely and George Kennedy. Kennedy played character Joe Patroni in all four Airport movies.

The film Broadcast News included a scene filmed at the airport.

External links

fr:Aroport international de Dulles ja:ダレス国際空港


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