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Dec 6Doug Smith

Northern Virginia Communities: Dulles International Airport

Dec 6Doug Smith

So far, I’ve looked mostly at cities and towns in Northern Virginia. Here’s another part of our community that’s as big as a town.

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) is a public airport in Dulles, Virginia, 26 miles west of downtown Washington, D.C. The airport serves the Baltimore-Washington-Northern Virginia metropolitan area centered on the District of Columbia. It is named after John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State under Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Dulles main terminal is a well-known landmark designed by Eero Saarinen.

Operated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Dulles Airport occupies 11,830 acres (47.9 km2) straddling the border of Fairfax County and Loudoun County, Virginia.

It is in two unincorporated communities, Chantilly and Dulles, west of Herndon and southwest of Sterling. Washington Dulles Airport is the largest airport in the Washington metropolitan area, and is one of the nation’s busiest airports with over 23 million passengers a year. Daily, more than 60,000 passengers depart Washington Dulles to more than 125 destinations around the world.

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 demolished.

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. 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.

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. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) began a renovation program for the airport including a new security mezzanine with more room for lines.

A new train system, dubbed AeroTrain and developed by Mitsubishi, began in 2010 to transport passengers between the concourses and the main terminal

The Airport Authority has begun to gradually phase out the mobile lounge system for inter-terminal passenger movements in favor of the underground people mover, which currently operates to concourses A, B and C and pedestrian walkway system (now in service to concourse A/B). The plane mates are still used to transport passengers to the D terminal. Plane mates will also 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).

 

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