Washington Dulles in for Big Changes

Eero Saarinen, the famous Finnish designer, is known for the beautiful Terminal at JFK, with its sweeping lines. But when he designed Washington Dulles airport in 1962, at the onset of the Jet Age, he made a few blunders.

Now officials there are trying to undo the grand design that has turned Dulles into one of the worst airports in the US. The Finnish designer concieved of ‘mobile lounges’ that would wisk passengers to the planes, instead of traditional parking gates. By 1964, the mobiles were a big hit, passengers in the hip sixties said they were their favorite part of the airport.

What happened? Well, the mobiles with stewardesses serving drinks and travelers gaily waving lit cigarettes were fine in the days when less than a few million passengers traveled through. But as Dulles grew, to 1987’s ten million, it’s too hard to direct the traffic of the mobile lounges and the planes.

One solution was to build a midfield terminal, and a subway, and to expand the original terminal. Today a billion dollar renovation is underway and an aeroTrain will speed passengers between terminals. There will still be mobile terminals but only to get to International arrivals and US Customs.