Posts Tagged ‘airports’

Washington DC — By Jon Rochetti on March 5, 2010 at 3:35 pm
Filed under: airports, featuredarticle, News

New AeroTrain Makes Dulles Travel Delightful

After years of requiring Washington Dulles International Airport travelers to ride on strange looking 1960s-era “mobile lounges” to get to virtually all of the airport’s gates, AeroTrain, the new underground airport people-moving train system, opened in late January simplifying passenger transit.

Dulles Airport AeroTrain station - Main Terminal

The new $1.4 billion, 4-mile AeroTrain system is designed to improve passenger’s experience when traveling in and out of Dulles Airport.

The trains reduce the time getting between terminals to less than two minute between each of the 4 current stations (with one more station planned), keeping trips to under 10 minutes to the furthest terminal stop. All passengers departing from A, B or C Gates are now using the new trains.  Dulles Airport AeroTrain station - boarding the AeroTrain Dulles Airport AeroTrain - inside a car

The new system is designed to eventually replace the current mobile lounges that moved passengers between the Main Terminal and the concourses. The new rail line will eventually form a ring, connecting all the concourses with the Main Terminal. The AeroTrain project required 9 years to open, with construction to continue.

I experienced the AeroTrain this past week and I must admit, it was a pleasure to ride, as well as a vast improvement over the older mobile lounges.  Getting to the train after passing through the new TSA security screening mezzanine check point is easy – just a short walk and escalator ride down to the subterranean train station.  My train arrived quickly and within about 5 minutes, I was at my concourse.  And while you still may have a long walk to get to your gate once in your terminal, the train made the trip to the terminal fast and easy.

Mobile Lounge style 2 at Dulles Airport Dulles Airport Mobile Lounge

The sleek and comfortable electric Crystal Mover rail cars (29 in total) are made by Mitsubishi and carry 105 passengers, each with 18 seats.  Rail speeds top out at over 40 mph. Similar systems are used in both the Atlanta’s Hartsfield and Miami airports in the Us as well as three additional systems in Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore.

The system was tested under 24-hour operating conditions, requiring it run without issue for 30 consecutive days without a glitch. After passing that test, the rail system was then used by Dulles employees for an additional week before opening to the public.

The old mobile lounges which may be eventually retired and some international flights and other flights may continue to use the older mobile lounges until the system is completed.

The old transports were were initially introduced to Dulles in 1962 and delivered passengers directly to their planes.  But as Dulles grew and additional terminals were built, their role changed to shuttling passengers to and from terminals, along with the occasional late-night direct-off-the-plane passenger pick up. But over time, passengers began to greatly dislike them due to their slowness.

Washington Dulles airport (IAD) is the busiest of the 3 major airports serving the Washington DC metro area, including Reagan National Airport (DCA) and Baltimore-Washington International (BWI).

Since the turn of the century, over $3 billion has been invested in upgrades and improvements to Dulles Airport, including the AeroTrain, a new air traffic control tower, a new runway, expansion of the B Concourse and Main Terminal, as well as 2 additional parking garages.  But this latest improvement is a welcomed change for passengers.

Washington Dulles International Airport
Aviation Drive & Autopilot Drive
Sterling, Virginia  (map it)

Images – Flickrmobile lounge, style 2 lounge, all others from personal collection ©2010, Jon Rochetti

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