Sandy Point Plane Watch


If I want to watch planes land at Reagan National Airport from Sandy Point, I believe I have to know that they are landing on runway 18. Is this correct and how can I find out what runway they are landing on before I drive down there?


This will go with the question about the radio also…

Tune your radio to 132.65, which is ATIS for DCA. That will give current conditions and give the active runway(s). You can get the frequencies for DCA all off the airport diagram when you click on “airport information” on DCA’s tracking page here on FA.


Look at the map for KDCA; if the aircraft are arriving from the north and departing to the south, they’re probably using 18.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. You can do that, too…


Sandy Point? I’ve heard of Gravelly Point just north of the main runway which is a very popular place for plane watchers, but I’ve never heard of Sandy Point. Planes land on 19 and takeoff on 1 when flying over Gravelly Point.

to find out what runway is in use, call the ATIS at 703-419-3917.


ATIS does not give the active runway right out, they give the wind direcion and speed. We have to draw our conclusions from there.


ATIS DOES give departure and arrival runway information. AWOS and ASOS doesn’t, but ATIS does.


Generally yes, but not always true.


ATIS = Airport Terminal Information Services.

ATIS is only found at controlled airports.

AWOS and ASOS are found at uncontrolled airports which only only include weather information.

Before contacting approach of the controlled airport, one of the requirements is to get the most current ATIS, and then after getting ATIS, the call up to approach would be "Jackson Approach, Sundowner 1943L, 5000 with Juliet (ATIS always ends with a alpha letter). This example of a call would be for an IFR flight as approach already knows what you want.

ATIS will usually give you the weather, followed by instructions of what to expect. I.E IFR and VFR arrivals expect 16 right, departures expect 16 left. ATIS will also provide taxiway closure information when appropriate.

I don’t know what the ground based range for ATIS is, but my experiences is that from the air, I can pick up ATIS between 30 and 40 miles from the airport.

AWOS and ASOS, most times within 20 to 30 miles from the uncontrolled airport.

Hope this helps.



They do for DCA and IAD.


I’m quite sure ATIS information always includes the runway in use. After hours at part-time control towers the ATIS freq becomes an ASOS, and does not include the runway in use, just automated info and usually what time the tower reopens.


I should have mentioned the AWOS at PAE. It gives all the usual WX stuff like the ATIS and it also includes open and closed runways. The italicized part of the quote was from me.

Edit: The phone number to the PAE AWOS is 425-355-6192 if you want to hear it.


I wasn’t too sure about ASOS and AWOS. The few that I’ve listened to never mentioned runway information, and I called one of each prior to posting just to be sure. Every ATIS I ever listened to gave runway information.


I believe you are correct that it is Gravelly Point, not Sandy Point. When I have gone there in the past, the planes were landing over Gravelly Point, which gave us a great view. So, if I want to see them land rather than take off over Gravelly Point, am I looking for them to being landing north or south? I always thought it was South on runway 18 after they follow the river in, but I am not sure. Once I learn this, I think I could then look on the map and see what directions the planes are landing and taking off and then I could figure it out, in additon I could call ATIS- all of this I learned from all of you! Thanks!


Yes, if you want to see them land over Gravelly Point, you’ll want them to land to the south on runway 19 (Runway number has changed due to change in location of magnetic north pole). When calling ATIS, listen for “arrivals should expect river visual approach runway one-niner”.

Since Gravelly Point is north of the runway, they will fly over Gravelly Point first before touching down on the runway if they’re flying south on a course of 190 when landing.