Aircraft Spotting Pages - Washington Reagan National Airport
Traffic at Washington Reagan National Airport
Washington Reagan National Airport is a hub for American Airlines and a focus city for Delta Airlines, this means that the vast majority of scheduled airline traffic into DCA will come from those two carriers. United Airlines has a small footprint here (their hub at IAD is about 20-30 miles west) and all low cost carriers have multiple flights into and out of DCA. Air Canada is also represented here. The largest aircraft that you will see at DCA are the Airbus A321 and the Boeing 757.
Very few, if any, business jet and private aircraft will be seen at DCA due to its proximity to Washington, D.C. and the Pentagon. Most of that traffic will utilize either IAD, BWI, Martin State Airport, or Manassas Regional Airport.
About the Spots and What You Will See
Click here for the flight information for DCA.
Spot A: This is about the only spot at Reagan that I will recommend and it is THE spot. The spot is located at a public park known as Gravelly Point and is easily accessible from the northbound side of the George Washington Parkway. There is plenty of parking for automobiles and you can walk out as far as physically possible and get almost any vantage point you want on aircraft arriving onto Runway 19 and departing on Runway 1. You can also view operations utilizing Runway 15/33.
To sum things up, you can watch all of the airport operations from all three runways at Gravelly Point. Any and all sized camera lenses can be used here, again, depending on where you set up and the type of photo you're trying to get. It is a very popular spot for spotters, tourists, and everyone else who utilizes the park for their activities, and some of which are listed below. You also get to see some of the landmarks that is Washington D.C., namely the Capitol and the Washington Monument, among others, can be viewed here.
You may also get to see traffic landing at Joint Base Andrews from a distance, so long as DCA and ADW are both utilizing Runway 19 and 19L/19R, respectively.
Recommendations: Gravelly Point is open from 6:00 AM until 10:00 PM and can get quite packed, especially on weekends and holidays. As the park is directly north of DCA, utilize a location nearest to the Potomac River in the morning to get the sun at your back and use the position of the sun to your advantage when photographing airplanes.
There is one unwritten rule with the park, and it is out of safety. There is a bike path that goes around the perimeter of the entire park. DO NOT STAND ON THE PATH OR UTILIZE THE PATH TO LEISURELY WALK AROUND. There are literally hundreds of people who will bike and run around the park each and every day and it is absolutely necessary to keep an eye out for them.
The above photos are examples of Runway 1 departures and taken from the early to mid morning hours. All Runway 1 departures are required to make an immediate left turn to avoid overflying restricted airspace around Washington, D.C., the Pentagon, and Arlington Memorial Cemetery, among other locations. The Alaska Airlines 737-800 has started that left turn.
The above photos are examples of Runway 19 arrivals all taken within one hour of sunset. All Runway 19 arrivals must follow the spectacular River Visual approach to fly between the restricted airspace of Washington, D.C. and Arlington. The American A319 is completing that last turn to line up with Runway 19 which is less than a mile away.
The above photos are an example of a Runway 33 departure - it is used by smaller aircraft.
I also recommend that you check out the official DCA spotting guide courtesy of the Washington-Baltimore Spotters Group. Direct any and all DCA questions you have to the group and mention that you came from Zinger Aviation Media!
Keep your ID with you at all times. DC Parks Police may stop by and make sure you're not doing anything you're not supposed to be doing. Chances are you won't be the only one there photographing airplanes as Gravelly Point is also mentioned as a tourist attraction.
From time to time you may have vendors set up temporary stands (think lunch trucks) at the park during the lunch hours. Portable restrooms are also here from time to time. If you plan to stay an extended length of time, it is highly recommended to pack a cooler with food and drinks in your car.