|Many airlines have modified their schedules as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, please consult a flight tracking site such as FlightAware or FlightRadar24 or airline web sites for current flight information.|
Some areas are restricting non-essential activities in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Please ensure that spotting is not temporarily prohibited by a local public health order before heading to the airport.
Washington Dulles International Airport
|Continent: North America||Country: United States||Region: Virginia|
|Washington Dulles International Airport|
|Overview map||Google Maps|
|Tower||120.1 (1R-19L), 128.425 (1L-19R, 12-30)|
|Ground||121.9 (East), 132.45 (West)|
|Plane Spotting Hotels guide|
Dulles International is one of three major airports serving the Washington D.C. area (the other two being Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA/KDCA) and Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI/KBWI)). It is by far the largest of the three, and serves as the main international gateway for the U.S. capital city. The airport serves as an international hub for United, and, until the airline went out of business, also served as the hub for ill-fated Independence Air. The airfield has four main runways: 1L/19R, 1C/19C, 1R/19L, and 12/30.
Official Spotting Locations
Unfortunately, the old observation deck at the base of the original control tower has been closed and covered up, due to Main Terminal renovations. It is still visible in the Google Earth photo.
The best on-site "official" spotting is provided by the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center, explained below.
Udvar-Hazy Center Observation Tower
The observation and viewing tower at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center provides fairly decent views of aircraft approaching the 1's, and departing the 19's, as the tower sits between the approach paths of the 1's. This place is good ONLY to view airplanes on approach and departures for the morning heavy wave.
While good for viewing, you can get much better shots of arriving airplanes from the parking lot in front of the museum but you will have issues with the trees.
Other Spotting Locations
Purple Economy Lot
The Purple Economy Lot offers a great vantage point directly under the approach/departure path, less than a half-mile away from the threshold of runway 19L. Parking there is $3/hr, and no more than $9/day, so if you stay more than three hours, you're almost getting free spotting. The lot tends to be sparse, so you may stick out. As long as you have an ID and are causing no trouble, you should be fine. After all, they're making money from you.
The Daily Garages offer a better vantage point for all three runways. Daily Garage I offers a spectacular view of the Main Terminal and Signature Flight Support. If you have a decent lens, you should be able to get decent shots, but this point is more for overviews because of the distance. Daily Garage II offers a great view of the south cargo ramp, which houses DHL and UPS. Further north is Fed-Ex. Occasionally, Piedmont-Hawthorne will put larger customers down here, such as the UAE's B747SP. You will need a decent lens to get good pictures of the north cargo ramp.
Both garages are $5/hr with a max of $15/day. Again, make sure you have an ID in case you are questioned. They may ask you to leave here, though, because these lots tend to be more popular.
Udvar-Hazy Center Parking Lot
The parking lot for the Udvar-Hazy Center is considered by many to be better than the observation tower itself, especially for 1R landings. From the entrance to the parking lot, proceed past the museum and park at the far end of the lot. Other spots may have more trees to contend with. Parking is $15/day; museum admission itself is free. Restrooms and food are available in the museum.
Westfield High School
The school is a good distance away (3.75mi from the threshold of runway 1L and 3mi from the threshold of runway 1R), but offers a decent spot for approaches to runways 1L and 1R. As long as school is not in session, security tends to be lax or non-existent. The student lot is often used by parents to teach their children to drive, along with other activities, so your presence will go largely unnoticed.
The school is off of Route 50 on Stonecroft Blvd.
Locations to Avoid
Avoid Signature Flight Support and Landmark Aviation. Both are very strict about security and do not like anyone except customers. This includes parking or even standing in their lots.
IAD gets some great rare (for the USA) airlines, such as Ethiopian. The airport is also visited occasionally by the German Luftwaffe, RAF and other foreign dignitaries.
Domestic Traffic and Aircraft
- American Airlines: American has a large number of daily flights from its hubs. Several aircraft are used, including the 737-800s and MD-80s. Sometimes A319s are used as well
- American Eagle: American Eagle operates flights using the CRJ-900.
- Delta Air Lines: Delta is using A319s, A320s MD-88s, and B717-200s
- Delta Connection: CRJ-200s and sometimes CRJ-700 or 900s
- JetBlue Airways: JetBlue operates both A320s and Embraer 190s
- Frontier Airlines: Frontier is starting to bring 10 daily flights on both A319s and A320s
- Porter Airlines: 4 daily Q400s
- Silver Airways: Frequent Saab 340s
- Southwest Airlines: Southwest is using 737-700/800.
- United Airlines: United has a hub at Dulles and operates many flights daily using several aircraft. This includes the B737-700, B737-800, B737-900ER, B757-200, B767-400, B777-200, B787-8, A319, and A320.
- United Express: CRJ-700, ERJ-145, EMB-170, Dash 8-200s and Dash 8-300s.
- Virgin America: A320
International Traffic and Aircraft
- Aer Lingus: B757-200 or A330, depending on time of year
- Aeroflot: Operates an A330
- Aeromexico: B737-800s and B737-700s
- Air China: B777-300ER
- Air France: A380-800s, and 777-200/300/300ERs.
- ANA: Operates a 777-300ER.
- Austrian Airways: Operates a B767-300ER.
- Avianca: Operates an A319
- British Airways: A380-800s, B777-200 or B777-300ER, sometimes B747-400
- Brussels Airlines: A330-200 and A330-300
- COPA: Operates a B737-800
- Emirates: Operates an A380-800
- Etihad: Operates a B787-9
- Ethiopian: Operates a B777-200LR
- Icelandair: Operates a B757-200
- KLM: Daily flight from Amsterdam using A330-200, and rare B777-200ERs
- Korean Air: Operates 777-300ER.
- Lufthansa: A330-300s and B747-8Is.
- Qatar Airways: B777-300ER
- Saudi Arabian Airlines: Operates a 777-300ER.
- South African Airlines: A340-600
- SAS: Daily flight from Copenhagen using an A330-300. Rare A340
- TACA: Operates an A319, A320, A321.
- Turkish Airlines: Operates a Tyrolean A330-300 daily
- Virgin Atlantic Airways: Operates an A330-300s and occasional A340-300 or A340-600s
Cargo Traffic and Aircraft
- Airborne Express (now DHL): 767-200.
- FedEx: Operates the B757-200F, A300-600, A310, and DC-10.
- FedEx Feeder: Cessna 208 Caravan
- UPS: B757-200F and A300-600.
- Volga-Dnepr: AN-124
Military Traffic and Aircraft
- Lufwaffe: Daily C-160, A310.
- RAF: C-130, VC-10.
Facilities and Transportation
-  - Plane Spotting Hotels-Hotels with views of the airport at Washington Dulles and Airports worldwide.
- WashBaltSpotters.net - Washington Baltimore Spotters Group - containing information about the area airports, spotting guides, traffic, news and photos
- FlyIAD.net - Spotters Guide to Washington DC Area Arports
- DCTower.net - Flight info, weather, photos, forums, and much more for DCA & IAD