Ronald Reagan Washington Spotting Guide

The airport of the Capitol of the USA, Ronald Reagan, served 23,5 Mio. passengers in 2016 and is located next to the Pontomac river. As the name implies, DCA is a national airport only, with no TSA passport control at all. Some flights to/from Canada takes place but these passengers are already checked within the Canadian departure airports.

American Eagle has a small regional hub in Washington, serving several smaller countries along the east coast. The other three major carriers, Delta, Southwest and JetBlue offering a wide variety of destinations too.
Due to noise restrictions, planes are asked to operate the “River Visual” approach if RWY 19 is in use, which is heading above the Pontomac river. This one is very interesting from a passengers sight (if you are sitting on the left) as you have a great view over the city of Washington with the White House and the Capitol for example.

Written by Julian Mittnacht and Stefan Geisenberger  / Last Update  2017

Rating Movements
Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Airport Information Runways 01/19 04/22 15/33
2.094 m (7.169 ft) 1.497 (4.911 ft) 1.586 (5.204 ft)
Terminals Terminal A Terminal B Terminal C
all other carriers United, Delta, US Airways, American, AA Eagle, Alaska US Airways Express & Shuttle
Spotting Information Ladder Not required
Car Not required
Restrooms inside the terminal and spot #3
Drinks/Food inside the terminal
Runway Usage  01/19 main runway in both directions
04/22 not known to be in use
15/33 during my stay a handful of AA Eagle jets arrived there

Spot #1 – Terminal C – Apron, 15&19 arrivals
WHERE Get out of the terminals at the departure level. Walk northwards until you will reach a small plaza with benches and trees.
WHAT You can see some of the ramp action of terminal C, used by US Airways/Express. You can also see the runway movements. But RWY19 is in the far distance and you can get heat distortion in your pictures. Better spots are #2&3
TIME Starting at noon to be a good spot
MISC. Closest facilities are in the terminal.
FOCAL LENGTH 50-500 mm

Spot 2 – Gravelly Point Park – 19&15 arrivals
WHERE The most famous spot in Washington and also loved by its citizen. Use the lower arrival level and exit the terminal there. Follow the footpath that is marked on the map northwards, along the perimeter. After 15 minutes you will see the park to your right
By car accessible from the George Washington Memorial Hwy. You have to come from the airport direction to enter the parking lot.
WHAT The park is directly under the approch of RWY19 and you can watch the famous ‘River approch’. In the morning find a place on the east side and switch over when the light has turned.
TIME Good spot for the whole day. Runway 15 arrivals until noon without backlit.
MISC. Its a place to relax! Benches, trees and water. By your stuff in the terminals before you get there. I saw some honey buckets when I was there too.
FOCAL LENGTH 50-150 mm


Spot #3 – Daingerfield Island – 01 Arrivals
WHERE There is a Marina on Daingerfield Island, a few miles southward of the airport. Its accessible from the George Washington Memorial Hwy. Park there and find you position next to the water on the grass. Don´t block the boat ramp.
There is also a nice trail from the terminal (metro station) to the photo position. It will take you approximate 30 minutes.
WHAT Arrivals on RWY01 only.
TIME Starting at noon to be a good spot
MISC. A restaurant, restrooms and vending machines directly at the marina. The location is a nice and relaxing place to spot from.
FOCAL LENGTH 70-200 mm

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2 thoughts on “Ronald Reagan Washington Spotting Guide

  1. John

    It’s runways 19 and 22 that do the river visual, but they usually only use 19 because it’s longer and has a sooner and smaller turn for the final. There is no runway 8.

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