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Washington Dulles International Airport
Washington, District of Columbia, United States

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Allow *lots* of time for international connections

While I like flying into Dulles as a private pilot, I had a very bad experience here as a passenger changing planes. I arrived on an international flight from Switzerland last Saturday, on time, with a scheduled 2-hour stopover. By the time I lined up for US immigration, lined up for the exit from the baggage area, then lined up again for a second security screening (totally unnecessary, since we'd never left the secure area), I'd used up most of the stopover time, and my next flight had already boarded. I made it on board after a very long run, but just barely.

So if you're switching from an international flight at Dulles, 2 hours is barely enough -- I'd suggest leaving more if you can, at least until the airport decides to stop abusing passengers with redundant security screenings.

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2012 fees update

It's been four years since I flew into Dulles, so I called Signature (1-703-572-0001) for a fees update for a piston single. They're still extremely reasonable for an FBO at a major airport:

Ramp fee: $30 (waived with minimum 8 gal fuel purchase)

Landing: $10.04

Parking: $20.92/night

Customs: no fee

Staff estimated that a taxi into DC would cost $100, and a compact rental car is $45/day.

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Flying in as pilot

I came to Dulles for the first time as pilot yesterday. The ADIZ was a total non-issue when I was IFR (just like any IFR flight). Potomoc approach and Dulles tower were friendly and co-operative, fitting me into the jet traffic in bad weather without any delays and giving me the runway I asked for. It was about a 3-minute taxi to Signature. They had a follow-me van waiting on their apron, and then a shuttle to take me about 50 meters to the FBO (in the rain). I waited 8 minutes for a Washington Flyer taxi to arrive from the terminal. All prices as quoted in a previous message -- cheap for a big airport (except for the fuel, of course).

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Fees and customs info (March 2008)

I called Signature in late March 2008, and had the following fees quoted for a single-engine piston (PA-28):

$8 landing fee

$18.19/night parking

$28 handling fee, waived with purchase of 7 gal fuel

Customs will meet Canadian planes at the Signature FBO, and there is no extra charge. Their number is (703) 661-7100.

Finally, Signature's radio frequency (for when you're taxiing in) is 131.87 MHz.

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Ground transportation

A taxi into DC should cost around $55-60. Here's a web site to estimate fares for specific destinations from DC to Dulles (the other way around you have to use Washington Flyer, which may charge differently):

http://citizenatlas.dc.gov/atlasapps/taxifare.aspx

A town car is probably about $10 more, but I haven't checked. The SuperShuttle costs around $27, with lots of extra stops -- it doesn't seem worth it (I remember being stuck on a SuperShuttle at LAX once, as it circled round and round for 15 minutes trying to get enough customers before it left: that's no fun after a long flight).

The cheapest option is take the WMATA 5A express bus from the airport to the L'Enfant or Rosslyn Metro stops. From what I've found online, it's $3.10 for the bus, and around $3 for the Metro. Here's the bus timetable:

http://www.wmata.com/timetables/dc/5a.pdf

And here's the trip planner on the WMATA site:

http://www.wmata.com/tripplanner_d/tripplanner.cfm

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15 new gates in Concourse B

Dulles has just opened an extension with 15 new domestic gates in Concourse B. JetBlue, Virgin America, and AirTran are coming in first, and American and Delta will take some of the gates later:

http://blogs.usatoday.com/sky/2008/01/airport-chec-11.html

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Designed by Committe

There's an old joke about an animal looking like it was designed by a committee. If the animal were an airport it would be Dulles. Dulles is the "poster child" that proves letting government agencies and retired generals named "Bozo" is a bad thing. When I was traveling extensively for the US government there was a secret "caste' system that we insiders knew. If a government traveler was allowed to buy his/her air tickets into Washington National (DCA) s/he was "somebody". All others were forced to fly into Dulles.

I was here the first time for a scheduled two-hour stop here the night of 4 October 1965, so I've been a customer for a while now. Those clumsy, swaying "people movers" that go between the terminals used to drive right out the the aircraft and pick-up/drop off at the aircraft door. back in the design phase the "committee" decided that since most delays seemed to happen at the gate, they would eliminate the gate. Hmmmm. Dulles now has taxi-up gates like every other intelligent airport, but they had to keep those automotive dinosaurs around for something, government property after all.

When you die after holding high office one of the disadvantages (aside from being dead. that is) is that they will likely name something after you, and being deceased you will have little choice in the matter. People today may not realize that John Foster Dulles was a heck of a lot better Secretary of State than Dulles is an airport.

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