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Old 08-18-2010, 11:01 AM
 
Location: Ashburn, VA
12 posts, read 31,045 times
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Default Where Is The Best Place To Watch Airplanes Land?

We're an avid aviation family and have found several little known spots to watch the commercial airplanes take off and land in Chicago and Atlanta. Now it's time to discover them in DC!

Does anyone have any suggestions on areas to park and watch the Dulles airplane activity come in and out right over your head?

Thanks!
Michelle
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Old 08-18-2010, 11:09 AM
 
239 posts, read 233,304 times
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Not sure if this counts as "right over your head", but the Smithsonian Air and SPace Museum in Chantilly VA (not the one near the National Mall" has a really nice observation tower that allows you to see planes take off and land.
Quote:
The Donald D. Engen Tower at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is an observation tower providing a 360 degree bird's eye view of Washington Dulles International Airport and the surrounding area. Visitors can watch planes land and take off from the nearby airport.
http://www.nasm.si.edu/visit/concessions/tower.cfm
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Old 08-18-2010, 11:13 AM
 
Location: Ashburn, VA
806 posts, read 1,322,655 times
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There is a park at the end of the runway at Reagan National Airport. It is just north of the airport and the parking lot is only accessible from the northbound GW Parkway. Depending on the wind, you will either be directly under taking off or landing aircraft. It's a cool place.
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Old 08-18-2010, 11:13 AM
 
Location: Brambleton, VA
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Not Dulles - but Gravelly Point, just off the GW Parkway north of National Airport, is awesome.
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Old 08-18-2010, 11:26 AM
 
Location: Taxmanistan
3,958 posts, read 3,534,561 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdcrim View Post
There is a park at the end of the runway at Reagan National Airport. It is just north of the airport and the parking lot is only accessible from the northbound GW Parkway. Depending on the wind, you will either be directly under taking off or landing aircraft. It's a cool place.
Do you mean the Washington Sailing Marina? Free to enter and free to park. They have a little concession-stand-type restaurant on the back side, with a deck that has a fantastic view of DC and the planes landing. Not to be confused with the fancy restaurant out front.

Last edited by Carlingtonian; 08-18-2010 at 11:54 AM..
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Old 08-18-2010, 11:27 AM
 
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Agreed, Gravelly Point is the place to go!

You can also take a walk/bike to the top of the Woodrow Wilson bridge. Depending on what direction they're landing/taking off you can get a cool view, although not as close as Graveely Point.
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Old 08-18-2010, 12:32 PM
 
Location: Arlington, VA
5,412 posts, read 1,145,868 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mdcrim View Post
There is a park at the end of the runway at Reagan National Airport. It is just north of the airport and the parking lot is only accessible from the northbound GW Parkway. Depending on the wind, you will either be directly under taking off or landing aircraft. It's a cool place.
This is nice, but I think they are close to Dulles, plus DCA has much smalle rplanes. But I go on that bike path/trail they have, and sometimes carry a camera and take pics of the planes taking off and landing. Very cool, you are super close. The 717/DC-9/MD-80 types come in the absolute lowest and are the most impressive ones..
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Old 08-18-2010, 12:44 PM
 
5,123 posts, read 3,246,770 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carlingtonian View Post
Do you mean the Washington Sailing Marina? Free to enter and free to park. They have a little concession-stand-type restaurant on the back side, with a deck that has a fantastic view of DC and the planes landing. Not to be confused with the fancy restaurant out front.
That's south of National Airport. Gravelly Point is north of it, and the planes fly right over your head at a pretty low altitude.
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Old 08-18-2010, 12:44 PM
 
105 posts, read 213,194 times
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I've been perplexed a few times by a strange noise that seems to go through the air a few (5-10) seconds after some planes pass overhead at Gravelly point. It's almost like the air crackles. Anyone have any idea what that is? It almost sounds like a static discharge.
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Old 08-18-2010, 01:10 PM
 
Location: Ashburn, VA
12 posts, read 31,045 times
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Default Answer!

Quote:
Originally Posted by pcgeller View Post
I've been perplexed a few times by a strange noise that seems to go through the air a few (5-10) seconds after some planes pass overhead at Gravelly point. It's almost like the air crackles. Anyone have any idea what that is? It almost sounds like a static discharge.
Those are wing tip vortices (vortex’s). It is caused by the lift that an aircraft wing makes when moving through the air. Basically the air spirals off the end of the wing tip and that spiral of air falls toward the ground with gravity. You are hearing that spiral of spinning air as it falls down to the ground. On a very humid day, you can actually see that spiral of air make what looks like little white lines of “smoke” off the tips of the wings.

It is because of this wing tip vortex that some planes have what are called winglets, or little fins on the end of the wing, typically at a 45 or 90 degree angle to help minimize this vortex effect. In the end it creates drag, which slows down the airplane.

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