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Coordinates: 38°56′40″N 077°27′21″W / 38.94444°N 77.45583°W / 38.94444; -77.45583

Washington Dulles International Airport
MWAA Logo.png
View of IAD from airplane a.jpg
Airport type Public
Owner Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority
Serves Washington Metropolitan Area
Location Dulles, Virginia
Hub for United Airlines
Elevation AMSL 313 ft / 95 m
Direction Length Surface
ft m
1L/19R 9,400 2,865 Concrete
1C/19C 11,500 3,505 Concrete
1R/19L 11,500 3,505 Concrete
12/30 10,500 3,200 Concrete
12R/30L 10,500 3,200 Planned
Source: Federal Aviation Administration[1]

Washington Dulles International Airport (IATA: IADICAO: KIADFAA LID: IAD) is a public airport located 25 miles (40 km) west of the central business district of Washington, D.C., in Dulles, Virginia[2] (Loudoun County and Fairfax County, Virginia, United States).[1] It serves the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The airport is named after John Foster Dulles, United States Secretary of State under Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Dulles main terminal is a well-known landmark designed by Eero Saarinen.

Dulles airport occupies 11,830 acres (47.9 km2) of land,[3] straddling the border of Fairfax County and Loudoun County, Virginia. It is located within two unincorporated communities, Chantilly and Dulles. The airport is west of Herndon and southwest of Sterling. Dulles airport is operated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

Dulles is served by nearly a dozen U.S.-flagged carriers and nearly two dozen international carriers.[4] Airlines serving Dulles provide non-stop service to over 80 domestic destinations and to over 40 international destinations. United Airlines maintains its East Coast hub at Dulles and handles 62% of passengers at the airport. JetBlue handles 6% of passengers, and American Airlines is the airport's third largest carrier and handles 4%.[5] The airport has 143 gates and 14 hard stand locations from which passengers can board or disembark using the airport's trademark PlaneMate airfield vehicles.[3] On a typical day, Dulles sees 1,000 to 1,200 flight operations.[6]


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. After preliminary proposals failed, including one to establish an international airport at what is now Burke Lake Park, the current site was selected by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958. As a result of the selection, the former unincorporated community of Willard, which once stood in the airport's current footprint, was torn down.

Design and original construction

The civil engineering firm Ammann and Whitney was named lead contractor. The airport was dedicated by President John F. Kennedy on November 17, 1962. Its original name, Dulles International Airport, was changed in 1984 to Washington Dulles International Airport.[7] The main terminal was designed in 1958 by famed Finnish architect Eero Saarinen and it is highly regarded for its graceful beauty, suggestive of flight. In the 1990s, the main terminal at Dulles was reconfigured to allow more space between the front of the building and the ticket counters. Additions at both ends of the main terminal more than doubled the structure's length. The original terminal at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei, Taiwan was modeled after the Saarinen terminal at Dulles.

The original design included a landscaped man-made lake to collect rainwater, a low-rise hotel, and a row of office buildings along the north side of the main parking lot. The design also included a two-level road in front of the terminal to separate arrival and departure traffic and a federally ownedlimited access highway connecting the terminal to the Capital Beltway (I-495) located approximately 17 miles to the east. (Eventually, the highway system grew to include a parallel toll road to handle commuter traffic and an extension to connect to I-66). When the access road was designed, it featured a wide median strip to facilitate the construction of a passenger rail line, which is expected to be completed in 2016.

Notable operations and milestones

  • The first flight at Dulles was an Eastern Air Lines Super Electra turboprop arriving from Newark International Airport in New Jersey.
  • Dulles was initially considered to be a white elephant due to its limited flight destinations in the 1960s and its 26-mile (42 km) distance from downtown Washington, but the airport has steadily grown at the same time that Virginian suburbs have grown along the Dulles Technology Corridor and the Capital Beltway. Perimeter and slot restrictions placed on flights arriving at and departing from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport have meant that most long-distance flights to the area must operate at Dulles or Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Maryland.
  • The era of jumbo jets in international aviation began on January 15, 1970, when First Lady Pat Nixon christened a Pan Am Boeing 747 at Dulles in the presence of Pan Am chairman Najeeb Halaby. Rather than use a traditional champagne bottle christening, red, white, and blue water was sprayed on the aircraft. The first Boeing 747 flight on Pan Am from Dulles was to London Heathrow.
  • Another milestone in aviation took place on May 24, 1976, when supersonic air travel commenced between Dulles and Europe. On that day, a British Airways Concorde flew in from London and an Air France Concorde arrived from Paris. The two sleek aircraft lined up at Dulles nose-to-nose for a photo opportunity.
  • On June 13, 1983, the Space Shuttle Enterprise "landed" at Dulles atop a modified Boeing 747 after completing a European tour and prior to returning to Edwards AFB. In 1985, the Enterprise was placed in a storage hangar near Runway 12/30 pending the construction of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. It has since been moved into the museum.
  • During the 1980s, a United States Senate resolution to change the name of Washington Dulles to Washington Eisenhower was defeated.
  • When the SR-71 was retired by the military in 1990, one was flown from its birthplace at United States Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California to Dulles, where it was placed in a special storage building pending the construction of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, setting a coast-to-coast speed record at an average 2,124 mph (3,418 km/h). The entire trip took 64 minutes.[8]
  • The inaugural flight of the Boeing 777 in commercial service, a United Airlines flight from London Heathrow, landed at Dulles in 1995.

Planned development

Main Terminal of Dulles International Airport
Main Terminal Station of Aerotrain

Since the 1980s, the original design, which had mobile lounges meet each plane, was not well-suited to Dulles' role as a hub airport. Instead, midfield concourses were added to allow passengers to walk between connecting flights without visiting the main terminal. Mobile lounges were still used for international flights and to transport passengers between the midfield concourses and the main terminal. An underground tunnel (consisting of a passenger walkway and moving sidewalks) which links the main terminal and concourse B was opened in 2004.[11] The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) began a renovation program for the airport, to include a new security mezzanine to help relieve the heavily congested security lines that are familiar to passengers traveling through the airport.[12]

A new train system, dubbed "AeroTrain" and developed by Mitsubishi, began in 2010 to transport passengers between the concourses and the main terminal.[13] The system, which uses rubber tires and travels along a fixed underground guideway,[13] is similar to the people mover systems at Singapore Changi Airport[13] and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. The train is intended to replace the mobile lounges, which many passengers find crowded and congested. The initial phase includes the main terminal station, a permanent Concourse B station, access to the temporary C concourse (via a tunnel with moving walkways from the future permanent midfield concourse station), and a maintenance facility.[13] Moving lounges continue to service the far end of the A Concourse as well as the D Concourse. Dulles has stated that the wait time for a train does not exceed two minutes, compared to the average 15-minute wait and travel time for mobile lounges today.

Also, under the development plan, future phases would see the addition of several new midfield concourses and a new south terminal.[14] A fourth runway (parallel to the existing runways 1 and 19 L&R) opened in 2008[15], and development plans include a fifth runway to parallel the existing runway 12-30.[16] An expansion of the B concourse, which is used by many low cost airlines as well as international arrivals, has been completed, and the "Midfield Concourses" (C and D) mainly house United Airlines, and will eventually be knocked down to make room for a more ergonomic building.[citation needed]


The distinctive Mobile Lounge at Dulles

The main terminal houses ticketing, baggage claim, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Z gates, and other support facilities. From here, passengers can take the Aerotrain or mobile lounges to their concourses, "plane mates" directly to their airplanes, or take the passenger walkway to concourse B. The plane mates/mobile lounges are also used to transport passengers arriving on international flights directly to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection center located in the International Arrivals Building adjacent to the west side of the main terminal. The terminal cost US$108.3 million and has 143 gates total.[3]

Dulles is one of the few remaining airports to use the "mobile lounges" and "plane mates" for boarding and disembarkation from aircraft, to transfer passengers between the midfield concourses and to and from the main terminal building. They have all been given names based on the postal abbreviations of 50 states, e.g.: VA, MD, AK The MWAA plans to retire the mobile lounge system for inter-terminal passenger movements in favor of the underground people mover and pedestrian walkway system (now in service to concourse B). However, some plane mates will remain in use to disembark international passengers and carry them to the International Arrivals Building, as well as to convey passengers to and from aircraft on hard stand (i.e., those parked remotely on the apron without access to jet bridges).[17][18]

Main terminal

Nonstop domestic and nonstop or direct international service from Dulles
The terminal ceiling is suspended in a catenary curve above the luggage check-in area.

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

The main terminal was extended in 1996 to 1,240 feet (380 m) — Saarinen's original design length — which was slightly more than double its originally constructed length of 600 feet (180 m).[19] In addition, an extension for international arrivals was added to the west of the main terminal in 1991. On September 22, 2009, an expansion of the international arrivals building opened which includes a 41,400 square feet (3,850 m2) arrival hall for customs and immigration processing. The new facility has the capacity to process 2,400 arriving passengers per hour.[20]

In September 2009, a 121,700 square feet (11,310 m2) central Transportation Security Administration checkpoint was added on a new security mezzanine level of the main terminal. This checkpoint replaced previous checkpoints located behind the ticketing areas.[21] A separate "Dulles Diamond" security checkpoint is available on the baggage claim level for experienced travelers traveling alone who do not have bags to check.[20][22] Both security checkpoints connect to the new AeroTrain, which links the main terminal with the A, B, and C concourses.

There are two sets of gates in the main terminal: waiting areas for airlines which lack permanent physical gates and therefore use plane mates to reach planes parked at hard-stand locations, and the "Z" Gates, which provide service for US Airways.

Midfield terminals

There are two midfield terminal buildings: One contains the A and B midfield concourses, the other the C and D midfield concourses. The C and D concourses, completed in 1983, were originally designed as a temporary home for United Airlines, which began hub operations at the airport in 1985.[citation needed] However, their replacements are still under development. The A Concourse consists of a permanent ground level set of gates designed for small planes such as commuter jets and some former B concourse gates[23]. The B Concourse is the first of the permanent elevated midfield concourses. It is connected to the main terminal by an underground walkway in addition to the Aerotrain.

Airlines and Destinations

Airlines Destinations Terminal
Aer Lingus Madrid [begins March 28] B
Aeroflot Moscow-Sheremetyevo B
Air Canada Jazz Montréal-Trudeau, Ottawa C
AirTran Airways Atlanta, Orlando B
Air France Paris-Charles de Gaulle B
Air India Delhi B
All Nippon Airways Tokyo-Narita B
American Airlines Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, San Juan B
AmericanConnection operated by Chautauqua Airlines St. Louis [ends April 5] B
Austrian Airlines Vienna B
Avianca Bogotá B
British Airways London-Heathrow B
Cayman Airways Grand Cayman [seasonal] B
Continental Connection operated by CommutAir Cleveland, Newark A
Continental Express operated by ExpressJet Airlines Houston-Intercontinental, Newark A
Copa Airlines Panama City B
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Cancún [seasonal], Salt Lake City B
Delta Connection operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines Atlanta B
Delta Connection operated by Comair Atlanta, New York-JFK B
Delta Connection operated by Compass Airlines Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul B
Delta Connection operated by Freedom Airlines Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky B
Delta Connection operated by Pinnacle Airlines Atlanta, Detroit B
Ethiopian Airlines Addis Ababa D
TACA San Salvador B
Iberia Madrid [seasonal] B
JetBlue Airways Boston, Cancún, Fort Lauderdale, Long Beach, New York-JFK, Oakland, Orlando, San Juan [seasonal] B
KLM Amsterdam B
Korean Air Seoul-Incheon B
Lufthansa Frankfurt, Munich [seasonal] B
Mexicana[24] Cancún, Mexico City B
OpenSkies Paris-Orly [begins May 3][25] TBD
Qatar Airways Doha A
Saudi Arabian Airlines Jeddah, Riyadh B
Scandinavian Airlines Copenhagen B
South African Airways Dakar, Johannesburg B
Southwest Airlines Chicago-Midway, Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, Tampa B
Sun Country Airlines Minneapolis/St. Paul [seasonal] B
United Airlines Accra [begins June 20][26], Albuquerque, Amsterdam, Aruba [seasonal], Austin [begins April 6], Bahrain [begins April 18][27], Beijing-Capital [seasonal], Boston, Brussels, Buenos Aires-Ezeiza, Cancún, Chicago-O'Hare, Denver, Dubai, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hartford/Springfield, Houston-Intercontinental, Kuwait, Las Vegas, London-Heathrow, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Montego Bay [seasonal], Moscow-Domodedovo, Munich, New Orleans, Orlando, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Phoenix, Portland (OR), Punta Cana [seasonal], Raleigh/Durham, Rio de Janeiro-Galeão, Rome-Fiumicino, Sacramento, St. Maarten [seasonal], St. Thomas [seasonal], San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan, São Paulo-Guarulhos, Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa, Tokyo-Narita, Zürich C,D
United Express operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, Columbia (SC), Columbus (OH), Huntsville, New York-JFK, New York-LaGuardia, Pensacola, Roanoke, Savannah A,C,D
United Express operated by Colgan Air Allentown/Bethlehem, Altoona, Beckley, Binghamton, Charleston (WV), Charlottesville, Clarksburg, Johnstown, Morgantown, Parkersburg, Shenandoah Valley, State College, White Plains A
United Express operated by ExpressJet Airlines Buffalo, Burlington (VT), Charleston (SC), Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Dayton, Detroit, Greenville/Spartanburg, Huntsville, Indianapolis, Nashville, Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Pittsburgh A,C,D
United Express operated by GoJet Airlines Albany (NY), Austin, Burlington (VT), Dayton, Jacksonville (FL), Kansas City, Montréal-Trudeau, Newark, Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Portland (ME), Providence, Richmond, Rochester (NY), St. Louis, San Antonio, Syracuse, Toronto-Pearson A,C,D
United Express operated by Mesa Airlines Albany (NY), Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Charleston (SC), Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbia (SC), Dayton, Detroit, Greenville/Spartanburg, Hartford/Springfield, Jacksonville (FL), Kansas City, Newark, New York-JFK, New York-LaGuardia, Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, Portland (ME), Providence, Raleigh/Durham, Roanoke A,C,D
United Express operated by Shuttle America Atlanta, Austin [ends April 4], Boston [ends April 5], Buffalo [resumes April 6], Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Fort Myers [seasonal], Halifax [seasonal], Hartford/Springfield, Houston-Intercontinental [ends April 3], Indianapolis, Kansas City [resumes April 6], Miami, Montréal-Trudeau, New Orleans, New York-JFK [ends April 4], New York-LaGuardia, Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Ottawa [ends April 4], Pittsburgh, Raleigh/Durham, San Antonio [ends April 5], Toronto-Pearson A,C,D
United Express operated by SkyWest Airlines Colorado Springs [begins June 9] A,C,D
United Express operated by Trans States Airlines Albany, Burlington (VT), Charleston (SC), Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Dayton, Detroit, Greensboro, Greenville/Spartanburg, Harrisburg, Knoxville, Manchester (NH), Montréal-Trudeau, Myrtle Beach [seasonal], Nashville, Newark, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Providence, Quebec City [seasonal; begins June 9], Richmond, Rochester (NY), St. Louis, Syracuse, Toronto-Pearson A,C,D
US Airways Charlotte [begins June 1] Z
US Airways Express operated by Air Wisconsin Charlotte Z
US Airways Express operated by Mesa Airlines Charlotte Z
US Airways Express operated by PSA Airlines Charlotte Z
Virgin America Los Angeles, San Francisco B
Virgin Atlantic London-Heathrow A

Airline lounges

Transportation to and from the airport

Dulles is accessible via the Dulles Access Road/Dulles Greenway (State Route 267) and State Route 28. The Dulles Access Road is a toll-free limited access highway owned by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) to facilitate car access to Dulles from the Washington Beltway and Interstate 66. After it opened, non-airport traffic between Washington and Reston became so heavy that a parallel set of toll lanes were added on the same right-of-way to accommodate non-airport traffic. However, the airport-only lanes are both less congested as well as toll-free. As of November 1, 2008, MWAA assumed responsibility from the Virginia Department of Transportation both for operating the Dulles Toll Road and for the construction of a rapid transit rail line down its median. Route 28, which runs north–south along the eastern edge of the airport, has been upgraded to a limited access highway, with the interchanges financed through a property tax surcharge on nearby business properties. The Dulles Toll Road has been extended to the west to Leesburg, Virginia as the Dulles Greenway.

Loudoun County Transit provides bus service which runs from the Dulles Town Center shopping center, to the airport, then to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air and Space Museum.

As of 2009, the only Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority service to Dulles is the "express" 5A Metrobus route. The 5A express bus makes two to three stops on its way from the airport to downtown Washington, depending on the time of day: stops include the Herndon–Monroe transfer station in Herndon and the Rosslyn Metro station in Arlington. The latter can be accessed by the Orange/Blue lines. The 950 Fairfax Connector bus brings passengers from Reston to the Herndon–Monroe transfer station, where they can switch to the 5A bus to the airport. The RIBS 2 Fairfax Connector bus also connects Reston passengers to the Herndon–Monroe transfer point. An alternative (and more expensive) way of reaching Dulles is the Washington Flyer Coach bus service that operates roughly every thirty minutes between the airport and the West Falls Church Metro station.[29]

Passengers connecting to the Shenandoah Valley can use the Shenandoah Valley Commuter Bus, which connects to the Vienna and Rosslyn Metro station. Taxis and SuperShuttle ride sharing vans are also available.

Construction is now underway to connect the airport to Washington via the Silver Line of the Washington Metro by 2016.

Accidents and incidents

Control Tower view of IAD in 1961.

On December 1, 1974, a flight diverted to Dulles, TWA Flight 514, crashed into Mount Weather.[30]

On June 18, 1994, a Learjet 25 operated by Mexican carrier TAESA crashed in trees while approaching the airport from the south. Twelve people died.[31] The passengers were planning to attend the 1994 FIFA World Cup soccer games being staged in Washington, D.C. The area where the aircraft crashed remains clear except for a small playground.

In 2001, American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757, left gate D26 at Dulles en route to Los Angeles, CA, but it was hijacked and it crashed into the Pentagon as part of the September 11 attacks.[32]

In fiction

Dulles has been the backdrop for many Washington based movies, starting shortly after the airport opened with the 1964 film Seven Days in May.

The 1983 comedy film D.C. Cab,starring Mr. T, Adam Baldwin and Gary Busey showed scenes outside of the main terminal at Dulles Airport.

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 uses the equipment to prevent airliners from landing, demonstrating the consequences by fooling one jet into crashing onto a runway. It is up to former NYPD cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) who is currently with the LAPD, to stop them from downing more planes, one of which has his wife aboard. The film was not shot at Dulles; the stand-ins were Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the now-closed Stapleton International Airport in Denver. An often-noted inconsistency is the existence of Pacific Bell pay phones in the main terminal (the telephone company that served Dulles at the time was GTE and the nearest PacBell territory was thousands of miles away).

Part of the thriller The Package (starring Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones) took place at Dulles. However, the Dulles stand-in this time was Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

Dulles airport's terminal exterior

Portions of all three sequels to the disaster film Airport were filmed at Dulles: Airport 1975, with Charlton Heston, Karen Black and George Kennedy; Airport '77, with Jack Lemmon, Christopher Lee and George Kennedy; and The Concorde: Airport '79.

Dulles has also served as a stand-in for a New York City airport, in the 1999 comedy, Forces of Nature. While set in a New York airport, the main terminal is recognizable.

Dulles is featured in several episodes the television series The X-Files.[33]

See also


  1. ^ a b FAA Airport Master Record for IAD (Form 5010 PDF)
  2. ^ "Dulles International Airport". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. 
  3. ^ a b c
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "History of Washington Dulles International Airport". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. 
  8. ^
  9. ^,6722,51
  10. ^ Coombs, Joe (February 7, 2008). "Passenger numbers up at Dulles International, Reagan National airports". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved 2008-04-06. 
  11. ^ "Passenger Walkway to Concourses A and B Fact Sheet". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Retrieved 2009-08-23. 
  12. ^ "Dulles Development: Main Terminal Improvement Fact Sheet". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Retrieved 2009-08-23. 
  13. ^ a b c d "Aerotrain - Dulles Train System Fact Sheet". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Retrieved 2009-08-23. 
  14. ^ "Dulles Development Projects". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Retrieved 2009-08-23. 
  15. ^ "D2 Projects: Fourth Runway: A new Runway 1L-19R for Dulles". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Retrieved 2009-08-23. 
  16. ^ "D2 Projects: Future Fifth Runway". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Retrieved 2009-08-23. 
  17. ^ Aryanpur, Arianne (February 2, 2006), At Dulles, The Tarmac Is Their Turf, The Washington Post, p. VA16,, retrieved 2008-09-01 
  18. ^ Miroff, Nick (September 14, 2006), Airport's Future Is on Rails, The Washington Post, p. B01,, retrieved 2008-09-01 
  19. ^ "Facts About Washington Dulles International Airport". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  20. ^ a b "Elbow Room Expands for International Arrivals". Washington Post: p. B2. September 22, 2009. 
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^,7056,61697,00.html
  27. ^ a b,7056,61241,00.html
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h [1]
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Sound of Impact: The Legacy of TWA Flight 514" by Adam Shaw; Viking Press, New York, NY (Hardback) and Dell Books (paperback).
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Flight Path Study - American Airlines Flight 77" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. February 19, 2002. 
  33. ^

External links


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