The Modern Convenience of the Dulles Mobile Lounge

 

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the Dulles Airport “mobile lounges” that moved passengers from terminal to plane. Consisting of a body made the Budd Co. of Philadelphia mated to a Chrysler chassis powered by two 172-hp engines, each 37-ton, 90-passenger unit cost $232,733; an engineering prototype constructed in 1961 cost $1.6 million. 

“Dulles International Airport, Chantilly, Virginia, 1958-63. Eero Saarinen, architect. Mobile lounges.” Photo by Balthazar Korab. (photo and caption courtesy of Shorpy)

 

When Dulles Airport was built in the 1950s, a modern and luxurious system of custom built conveyances known as the mobile lounges moved you in air conditioned comfort from your departure gate to the actual door of the airplane. No more problems with being rained on or having the wind blow your permanent away.

Over the last 40 or so years I have flown out of Dulles to various places, mostly international flights, and these mobile lounges seem more curious each time I ride on one. They aren’t new anymore, that is for sure. And I can’t imagine anyone thought they would still be in use after almost 70 years but they are. (Obviously rebuilt or replaced at a large cost).

 

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Oddly, Dulles went through a massive construction project over the last 8 or so years. The plan was to dig pedestrian tunnels under the runways to new standard airport boarding gates and eliminate what must be a large expense for these odd contraptions.

By the way, if you have never been on a Dulles Mobile Lounge, and you haven’t missed anything I assure you, they can move up and down and do other sorts of things. It is like a Disney ride for adults. And they move in sort of a jerky way so you have to hold on. In fact, one of those recorded announcements cautions you to hold on. And you have to or you will pitch forward if it isn’t jammed with people.

I do not know what happened but the airport authority never completed the project so some gates have long pedestrian tunnels, and I mean like a mile long it seems, and others use the ddelightfulDulles Mobile Lounge.

Hopefully they will keep one to be exhibited in the Smithsonian in the years to come.

 

 

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 “Dulles International Airport, Chantilly, Virginia, 1958-63. Eero Saarinen, architect. Mobile lounges.” Photo by Balthazar Korab. (photo and caption courtesy of Shorpy)

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/