chrisjake
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Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Fri May 31, 2019 12:21 am

I'm going to be taking a spotting road trip to Washington Dulles in about a month or so. I found a few websites online showing where the spotting locations are, but I would love to hear from some locals or regulars about the ins-and-outs of the area, or what their favorite locations are and why. I've never been to IAD in any form so I'm 100% unfamiliar with the territory.

The terminal design is amazing and I would love to get some great photos of it. It looks like Parking Garage 2 would be THE spot for terminal photos, would you agree? What about going inside, is it worth it?

I'll obviously need a place to stay in the area.....so any info about hotels and the like would also be appreciated. Want to try to keep things on the affordable side, but if there are some incredible IAD view hotel rooms I would consider those.

How about any place I need to definitely avoid?

Thanks to all who respond. Knowledge is power so I appreciate any info.

Chris
 
flipdewaf
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Fri May 31, 2019 11:09 am

I have spotted at IAD about 13 years ago and no trip to IAD for spotting for an avi geek is complete without spending at least a day at the air and space museum.

https://airandspace.si.edu/udvar-hazy-center

Fred
Image
 
Starfuryt
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Fri May 31, 2019 12:42 pm

Hey Chris,

Most of the info you found online about the spotting locations is likely spot on. Essentially this: https://www.spotterguide.net/planespott ... -iad-kiad/.
You are going to be coming into the airport from the toll road or route 28, don't drive into the airport itself, there is a right exit just short of the airport with "services" pointing towards it. Go up to the stop sign take another right, about quarter mile down will be the left turn to the eastern garage, if you keep going the road will turn left you will drive all the way past the western garage, the entrance you want is ALL the way at the end after the taxi turn. You can get up to the 5th level really easy from there. The western garage is the one you want to be taking photos of the terminal from:

You can also take some apron shots from the same location (shameless self-plug):

The other side of the garage looks over 19C/1C:


If you go down a couple of levels there is a short walkway to the terminal, you can see it in the picture above. You can't get anywhere past the main terminal building unless you are a ticketed passenger. If you go down to the arrival floor there will be an underground walkway to the other garage, from there you can ideally spot 1R departures and 19L arrivals.

Keep in mind heat haze will be a problem there at this time of the year. The new metro track isn't in the way, but it does unfortunately give off a bit of heat as well which is an issue if you want to get shots over the threshold. Note the metro isn't open yet, if you do take the metro at any point there is a shuttle for $5 from/to Wiehle-Reston metro station and from there you can take the Silver Line into the city.

You can call ops so they know you are there, but frankly I never did. Airport police routinely drives around the garages but they know that the spots are popular, I usually just wave, they wave back and off they go.

For morning arrivals on 19L you can use spot 5, I've never spotted early morning so I've never been there. Spot 7 is good for morning arrivals on 1R. There is a Wingate hotel there with a nice pond. This hotel is possibly the best place to stay if you want to see nice 1R arrivals from a hotel. I live 5 minutes from the airport so I don't really know much about hotels in the area since I've never needed them.

Spot 4 and 7 can be both used for afternoon/evening arrivals on 1R. I've used them both
here is 7:

and here is 4:


7 is a target/costco or whatever there is there now parking lot. You will have people come and ask what you are doing there. I've had on a few occasions, most are just curious. The museum is a great spot for short final. The shot I linked is from inside the gates, you can walk outside the gates, there is a hill on the right side of the road, climb the hill and you can see planes all the way down to the runway, you can't see the runway as it's elevated compared to your location. But you can get some very nice shots of them coming over the tress, I currently have a couple of those in que: https://imgproc.airliners.net/photos/ai ... 82d39c820e

In the winter you can spot all the way down to the runway but in the summer you will get heat haze, here are a couple of rejections I had for haze and quality: https://imgproc.airliners.net/photos/ai ... 70076b43e4
https://imgproc.airliners.net/photos/ai ... 6928ea388f

Keep in mind that museum parking is free after 4 pm, I think the museum itself is open till 5:30? I'm not sure, I haven't been inside in a while, do make sure you go there and go up to the tower as well.

For runways 30 and 19R/1L there is really not a whole lot you can do, if you are lucky European departures will line up on 1R in the evening, but more often than not they take 30 and you are out of luck.

Let me know if I didn't answer anything,

-Mikhail

ps. make sure you also go to DCA and spot at gravely point, even my wife thinks planes flying 100 feet over her head is spectacular, especially at night.
 
Starfuryt
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Fri May 31, 2019 1:17 pm

One more note I forgot to mention lenses.
I use 200-500 f/5.6 almost exclusively.
There are a couple of places where that's too long, the apron shots you want a 70-200. A 747 will not fit at 200mm there, though anything smaller will.
The terminal building fits it completely around 50mm I think. I used a 24-70 for that.
For the LH A350 I used 200-500 and it just barely fit. A380 at that angle didn't. You do need 500 if you want to shoot all the way to runway however.

Something like a Tamron 150-600 will probably cover everything apart from the wide shot of the terminal.
 
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airkas1
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Fri May 31, 2019 1:44 pm

Not visiting anytime soon, but just wanted to say that the above is a great and very informative post!
 
chrisjake
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Fri May 31, 2019 1:53 pm

Mikhail, thanks for that post. That's some great info! I'm going to take some time and study everything you've mentioned. I was considering a side trip to BWI, but that may change to DCA now that you've mentioned it. Thanks!!

Chris
 
Starfuryt
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Fri May 31, 2019 1:57 pm

I used to live in Baltimore when I went to school at Hopkins, and then I used to drive to DC to work, I hate the drive so much it would take something very special to get me to go to BWI...probably nothing short of An-225 :D
 
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jelpee
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Thu Jun 06, 2019 12:00 pm

I travel through Baltimore every summer and make it a point to stay at a BWI airport hotel and spend an afternoon at the Observation Park.. The Observation Park is an A+ spotting location (IMO) in the afternoons till sunset. Traffic has more variety than DCA since you actually see heavies (BA, Fed Ex, some military transports, etc). If you're in the area, I would add it to the itinerary. Here's more information: https://www.washbaltspotters.net/files/bwispots.pdf

Jehan
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fsx98
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Thu Jun 20, 2019 7:32 pm

Hi! I was about to post a new thread about spotting near Dulles, and then came upon this thread which is created just recently; I will be staying at my brother's new home in Herndon, VA from. August 9th to the 11th, which is very close to the Dulles airport; while I am most unlikely be using transportation to go to the airport, I will be trying to spot from his place; would that be possible if I try to spot from there using my 70-300mm lens? Are there any other locations close to Herndon, VA that would work if spotting from my brother's place would be unlikely to get good spotting photos from there? I only want to travel far enough for walking distance.
 
VTALH
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:35 pm

fsx98 , You haven't posted where your brother house location is. Herndon is big enough to land you at a spot far away from spotting.If you are parallel to 28, sure you can spot a few, the departures in the evening are typically North bound or North-West bound. As mentioned by Mikhail above, the parking garages are the best bet with 70-300mm. Mikhail has covered most of the stuff you will need. good luck spotting.

P.S. I started spotting recently at IAD.
 
Starfuryt
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Mon Jul 15, 2019 6:04 pm

fsx98 wrote:
Hi! I was about to post a new thread about spotting near Dulles, and then came upon this thread which is created just recently; I will be staying at my brother's new home in Herndon, VA from. August 9th to the 11th, which is very close to the Dulles airport; while I am most unlikely be using transportation to go to the airport, I will be trying to spot from his place; would that be possible if I try to spot from there using my 70-300mm lens? Are there any other locations close to Herndon, VA that would work if spotting from my brother's place would be unlikely to get good spotting photos from there? I only want to travel far enough for walking distance.


I know you asked 3 weeks ago. Herndon is a no go. The downwind leg takes the aircraft on 1R/19L right over Reston Parkway, I live immediately under the approach path in Reston. They are at about 4000 feet at that point, so realistically you probably want a 500mm but even then you will be shooting from below so light will be bad unless it's very early/very late in the day. You can always take an uber to the airport, it's literally a 7 minute ride or so and then walk to the parking garage and spot from there. 300mm will be enough for 1C/19C. If you are lucky enough where international departures are using 1R then the eatern garage should work for 300mm as well.

-Mikhail
 
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Blimpie
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Wed Jul 17, 2019 12:15 pm

chrisjake wrote:
Mikhail, thanks for that post. That's some great info! I'm going to take some time and study everything you've mentioned. I was considering a side trip to BWI, but that may change to DCA now that you've mentioned it. Thanks!!

Chris


Another nice spot to hit if you want to do DCA, is just past Gravelly point is Long Bridge Park. Nice thing there is you can hit both trains and planes at the same time, plus you don't get as many AV geeks down there so if you want some peace and quiet, or a spot that gets fewer spotters for some unique shots.
Now get the hell off of my lawn your dang kids!
 
chrisjake
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Wed Jul 17, 2019 1:35 pm

The day is near. We're booked at the Crowne Plaza in Sterling for the weekend of 7/27. One quick question, my buddy is coming with me and he has never seen an A380 before....I see that Air France and Emirates will fly in A380s that weekend. Is there a specific runway they use at IAD? I see Mikhail's Air France photo above from spot 4, which is for when they are using 1R, do the A380's generally always use 1R/19L, or is it pretty much a roll of the dice?

Thanks again for all the help.

Chris
 
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fsx98
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Wed Jul 17, 2019 4:08 pm

Starfuryt wrote:
fsx98 wrote:
Hi! I was about to post a new thread about spotting near Dulles, and then came upon this thread which is created just recently; I will be staying at my brother's new home in Herndon, VA from. August 9th to the 11th, which is very close to the Dulles airport; while I am most unlikely be using transportation to go to the airport, I will be trying to spot from his place; would that be possible if I try to spot from there using my 70-300mm lens? Are there any other locations close to Herndon, VA that would work if spotting from my brother's place would be unlikely to get good spotting photos from there? I only want to travel far enough for walking distance.


I know you asked 3 weeks ago. Herndon is a no go. The downwind leg takes the aircraft on 1R/19L right over Reston Parkway, I live immediately under the approach path in Reston. They are at about 4000 feet at that point, so realistically you probably want a 500mm but even then you will be shooting from below so light will be bad unless it's very early/very late in the day. You can always take an uber to the airport, it's literally a 7 minute ride or so and then walk to the parking garage and spot from there. 300mm will be enough for 1C/19C. If you are lucky enough where international departures are using 1R then the eatern garage should work for 300mm as well.

-Mikhail


Thanks Mikhail and VTALH for the info; I may probably have to rethink about bringing my DSLR, as I doubt I'll have time to plane spot on this very short trip; based on the camera equipment I have right now, I'm not sure if I would want to spend time taking photos of aircraft and end up with the majority of photos not passable on a.net after editing on PS due to poor quality of the edited photos with my camera equipment given.
 
winstonavgeek
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Wed Jul 17, 2019 8:42 pm

chrisjake wrote:
The day is near. We're booked at the Crowne Plaza in Sterling for the weekend of 7/27. One quick question, my buddy is coming with me and he has never seen an A380 before....I see that Air France and Emirates will fly in A380s that weekend. Is there a specific runway they use at IAD? I see Mikhail's Air France photo above from spot 4, which is for when they are using 1R, do the A380's generally always use 1R/19L, or is it pretty much a roll of the dice?

Thanks again for all the help.

Chris


Yes, there is pretty much a 90%+ chance of the A380s using 1R. I don't remember the last time they used center.
 
Starfuryt
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Thu Jul 18, 2019 6:04 pm

A380s always use 1R/19L. Though I did watch AF depart from 19C a few weeks ago along with LH 748.
 
chrisjake
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Wed Jul 31, 2019 2:04 pm

Some observations after spotting at IAD over this past weekend. First....thanks to all for their insight, it helped greatly in finding the locations. IAD is a beautiful airport, and that terminal is really something special to see in person.

As for spotting, the locations were perfectly described on the spotting website. My largest annoyance would be that the only viable spotting that can be done in the late afternoon/early evening is on runway 19L/1R.....and that depends on ATC. We had southerly ops for 90% of the time so evening spotting would have been ideal from the east garage and runway 19L - but ATC kept sending the good stuff to 19C. The parking garages are prime spots, but you have to commit to one as it gets very pricey to go back n forth between them. If only there was a location on the south side of runway 30 as that runway was used for departures no matter the wind direction.

The museum by runway 1R is stunning and a must see.....especially since you're already paying for parking to spot there and that makes it free.

It was definitely a learning experience, and there were some photo failures and frustration along the way, but that's just part of spotting a new airport. As they say, knowledge is power and I'll definitely be back for more spotting armed with the knowledge I got from this trip.

Chris
 
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Moose135
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Thu Aug 01, 2019 12:23 am

chrisjake wrote:
The museum by runway 1R is stunning and a must see.....especially since you're already paying for parking to spot there and that makes it free.

As much as I enjoy spotting, I think you have that backwards. Yes, the National Air & Space Museum is stunning, and as long as you are paying to park there, you might as well take advantage of it and do some spotting while you are there...
KC-135 - Passing gas and taking names!
 
dcaviation
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:18 pm

Starfuryt wrote:
A380s always use 1R/19L. Though I did watch AF depart from 19C a few weeks ago along with LH 748.


Nope.
 
dcaviation
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Wed Aug 07, 2019 1:21 pm

chrisjake wrote:
If only there was a location on the south side of runway 30 as that runway was used for departures no matter the wind direction.

Chris


There is. Walmart parking lot.
 
Starfuryt
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Re: Looking for Dulles IAD spotting info - hotels and stuff

Thu Aug 08, 2019 1:35 pm

dcaviation wrote:
chrisjake wrote:
If only there was a location on the south side of runway 30 as that runway was used for departures no matter the wind direction.

Chris


There is. Walmart parking lot.



That's frankly pretty far, to be fair I've never tried spotting from there, maybe I'll give it a shot this weekend.

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