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The Ultimate IAD Spotting Guide (2020 Edition)

The Ultimate IAD Spotting Guide (2020 Edition)

BY DANIEL MENA 19329d AGO 4 COMMENTS

Washington Dulles International Airport is the main airport serving the Greater D.C. Metropolitan Area. Opened in 1962, its main terminal was developed by Eero Saarinen, a Finnish-American architect. The airport spans 20 square miles (over 13,000 acres) and two counties in Virginia, making IAD one of the largest airports in the country. Over the years, IAD has attracted many aviation enthusiasts. For visitors, the airport's size may seem tedious to some, so an updated guide would definitely prove useful.

 

Note that some of these spots are not official and police may ask you to leave. If spotters have run into any trouble at the locations, it will be indicated. An IAD Airport Diagram can be found here.

 

 

Overview of Traffic and Runway Operations

 

There are two main runway operations for arrivals at IAD, the 1s and 19s.  The 1s is when aircraft approach from the south.  During these operations, most international aircraft will use the Runway 1R.  Aircraft arriving from the north and east will usually use the Runway 1R while aircraft from the west will use 1C.

 

IAD is a hub of United Airlines so expect lots of United aircraft.  IAD receives lots of international traffic such as Ethiopian, Etihad, Emirates, Qatar, Saudia and more!!!

 

Spot #1: Hazi Service Road

 

In the morning, stand on the eastern side of the runway. In the afternoon/evening, you can walk down the road westward to the other side of the runway. If parking, be sure to park at the the Udvar Hazi center ($10 before 4pm, free afterwards). This spot is great for golden hour. Lots of European traffic land here; you can't go wrong with Hazi. This spot is used when aircraft are landing on the 1s, particularly runway 1R. You can do well with any lens here. Here are some photos from this location:

 

 

Credit: TheExplorerBlog | Jack Goldberg
Credit: TheExplorerBlog | Winston Shek
United Airlines Boeing 787-10
Credit: TheExplorerBlog | Daniel Mena

 

Spot #2: Gold Lot

 

In the morning, you may have to do a little bit of extra walking to get to this spot. In the afternoon/evening, you can follow the signs to the Gold Lot. The best place to park is either at the lot, or at the Sunoco Gas Station. If you park at the gas station, it's about a 10 minute walk (3 min jog) to the Gold Lot. Similar to Hazi, any lens will do fine, though above 100mm would do well. Here are some shots from here: 

 

Credit: TheExplorerBlog | Daniel Mena
Credit: TheExplorerBlog | Daniel Mena
Credit: TheExplorerBlog | Daniel Mena

 

Spot #3: Daily Parking Garage 1

 

This spot is good for getting arrivals to runway 19L, the same as the spot above. From here, you are more distant from the runway, meaning you will get more of a "side" view of the aircraft. The scenery is nice, though. In this spot, a lens of 200+mm would be recommended. Here are shots from here:

 

Credit: TheExplorerBlog | Daniel Mena

 

View this post on Instagram

Love China 777-300 landing at Dulles. Swipe for a more zoomed out photo. Had a really fun time spotting with @calvinaviationsfo and meeting @aviation.economist today. __________________________________ Follow me! 👉 @dullesaviation123 __________________________________ • #airplane #airplanes #airplane_pics #airplane_lovers #airplanesdaily #airplanespotting #airplanespotter #planespotters #planespotting #planelovers #aviation #aviationlovers #aviation_lovers #aviationpic #plane #planepic #megaplane #aviation4u #aviationworld #aviationlife #aviationlife

A post shared by Daniel M (3.7K) (@dullesaviation123) on

 

NOTE: You can also catch runway 1R Departures from here:

 

Credit: Dylan T.

 

Spot #4: Sunoco Gas Station

 

This spot is also good for 19L arrivals. Simply park in the lot beside the car wash and you'll be able to get a good view of International arrivals. There are trees in obstructing some of the landing path, so bear that in mind when selecting spots. Larger lenses would work best (75-300mm works fine). Here are shots from here:

 

View this post on Instagram

Two views of a United Airlines 787 Landing at IAD after a flight from London. Which one do you like better? ____________________________ Follow these accounts: @calvin.aviation.sfo @winston_aviation @iad.aviation @dulles_aviation @jack300er @dullesaviation123 ____________________________ Canon Rebel XS // 18-55mm lens ____________________________ #unitedairlines #united @united #boeing #boeing787 #boeing787lovers #boeing787dreamliner #boeing7878 #787dreamliner #787 #dullesairport #dulles #airport #airport✈️ #iad #kiad #megaplane #airplanepictures #aviation #aviationdaily #aviationgeek #aviation4u

A post shared by Daniel M (3.7K) (@dullesaviation123) on

 

From here, you can also get photos of aircraft departing runway 1R in the evening. Airlines such as United, Austrian, South African, and Virgin Atlantic utilize this runway for departures. Here are photos of departures:

 

View this post on Instagram

Aer Lingus a330 Departing IAD. __________________________________ Follow me! 👉 @dullesaviation123 __________________________________ • #airplane #airplanes #airplane_pics #airplane_lovers #airplanesdaily #airplanespotting #airplanespotter #planespotters #planespotting #planelovers #aviation #aviationlovers #aviation_lovers #aviationpic #plane #planepic #megaplane #aviation4u #aviationworld #aviationlife #aviationlife

A post shared by Daniel M (3.7K) (@dullesaviation123) on

 

 

Spot #5: Daily Parking Garage 2

 

This spot is good for getting arrivals to runway 19C/1C. This spot is best until around 1-2pm. From this spot, you can also get photos of aircraft taxiing and gated at the terminal A/B concourse. Here, a 75-300mm lens works well. Taxiing aircraft on taxiway Y and feeding taxiways can be shot with a smaller lens. Here are some shots from here: 

 

Credit: TheExplorerBlog | Daniel Mena
Credit: TheExplorerBlog | Daniel Mena
Credit: TheExplorerBlog | Daniel Mena

 

Spot #6: Ambassador Bible Church

 

This spot is good for getting arrivals to runway 1C only. There is not much flexibility with this spot. This spot is best in the afternoon. Here, a 75-300mm lens works well. Here are some shots from here: 

 

 

Spot #7: Dick's Sporting Goods - Dulles Mall

 

This spot is good for getting southward departures from Runway 30. Many airlines use runway 30 for departures near the afternoon hours. There is not much flexibility with this spot. Here, a 75-300mm lens works well. For northward departures, use Spot #8.

 

Spot #8: ADESA DC

 

This spot is good for getting northward departures from Runway 30. Many airlines use runway 30 for departures near the afternoon hours. In the morning, airlines such as Emirates and Korean Air use this runway for their northward departures. There is not much flexibility with this spot. Here, a 75-300mm lens works well.

 

Spot #9: Dulles North Park and Ride

 

This spot is located north of Runway 19C and is good for getting afternoon arrivals from the north. From the parking lot of the train station, you can get good photos of arriving aircraft of airlines such as British Airways (which almost always utilizes 19C when 19s are active), Austrian Airlines, and United. Here are some photos from here:

 

View this post on Instagram

Gloomy times ft. a gloomy day ------------------- Reg: N27958 Airline: United Aircraft: B787-9 Route: LAX-IAD -------------------- Follow em @dullesaviation123 @dulles_aviation @maryland.aviation @arkviation @arlington.spotter @iad.aviation @kiad_aviator

A post shared by Winston (@winston_aviation) on

 

 

Spot #10: United Hangar

 

NOTE: This location is an IAD Insider Location. Please respect the local spotters by not abusing the location. Please do not stay at this location for more than 10 minutes and respect all posted signs and markings.

 

This spot is located north of the airport. Do not park here, as there are posted towing signs. From this spot, you can get good photos of United Airlines hangar operations. The best place to park would be at the cell phone lot nearby, then you can walk here. Be sure to stay here for a maximum of 10 minutes to not ruin the opportunity of this spot for other aviation enthusiasts. Here are some photos from here:

 

Credit: TheExplorerBlog | Daniel Mena
Credit: TheExplorerBlog | Daniel Mena
Credit: TheExplorerBlog | Daniel Mena

Spot #11: Cargo Building 6

 

NOTE: This location is an IAD Insider Location. Please respect the local spotters by not abusing the location. Please do not stay at this location for more than 45 minutes and respect all posted signs and markings.

 

This spot is located beside runway 19C/1C and also has a great view of Taxiway Y. Special aircraft park in the fence just beside this location, so you can also get photos of special visitors to Dulles. This spot is many locals' favorite location. Here are some photos from here:

 

 

 

In terms of focal length: For the the gated aircraft and aircraft taxiing past, an 18-55 lens works perfectly fine. For aircraft landing on 19C, you will need a larger lens (75-300). With a 600mm lens, you could get arriving aircraft on 1C, but there will be lots of heat haze, especially in the summer.

 

 

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, feel free to DM my Instagram @dullesaviation123. 

 

Daniel Mena
President and Founder of AeroXplorer. Web Developer and Aviation photographer. Contact me for questions and inquiries through my Instagram DMs, linked below.

Comments (4)

jg.spotter horrible
Reply
danielmena oh thanks
Aviation.DCA AS a Dulles spotter my self I have known of most of these locations but not all of them thank you for making this!!! Also I have a question Can you DM on Instagram? @aviation.DCA
Reply
danielmena Sure! Feel free to DM me on instagram, my handle is @dullesaviation123

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TRIP REPORTS Plane spotting UPSG IAD Dulles Washington D.C. DC aviation

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