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1960s-Era Dulles Mobile Lounges to Receive $143 Million Facelift

The iconic transport vehicles are likely to be around for the long haul.

A Dulles Airport Plane Mate (Photo: Noah Escobar)

Washington Dulles Airport’s iconic mobile lounges are slated to receive major upgrades in the coming years. Alongside the airport’s $1.4 billion underground AeroTrain system, the over 60-year-old transport vehicles still move passengers between concourses and to the main customs facility.

When the AeroTrain opened in 2010, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) — which operates the airport — planned to phase out the mobile lounges. But, according to the Washington Post, the second phase of the AeroTrain’s development has not yet started.

“The infrastructure to replace the mobile lounge isn’t built yet,” Rob Yingling, an MWAA spokesperson, told the Post. “It’s going to take time.”

A Plane Mate attaches to a Boeing 787 at Dulles Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ryan Ewing)

A Hefty Price Tag

Late last year, MWAA’s board approved the plan to restoration plan, awarding the contract to Pennslyvania-based Brookville Equipment Corporation. The firm manufactures locomotives among other rail products.

Brookville will initially design two prototypes for $16.4 million. MWAA will then have the option to refurbish the entire fleet of 49 vehicles for an estimated $143 million. The cost is planned not to exceed $160 million.

The first two vehicles were transported to Brookville’s Pennsylvania facility in March and April,

“Mobile lounges and plane mates are important parts of Dulles International Airport’s operations,” said Richard Golinowski, vice president and airport manager at Dulles International Airport, in a press release. “They provide flexibility and increased capacity to move passengers around the airport while offering unique views during the ride. Built in the 60s, it’s time for a major overhaul of these iconic vehicles. We look forward to following the two prototypes through Brookville to Rehabilitate Mobile Lounge and Plane Mate Prototype Vehicles – 2 refurbishment.”

Two Different Types

First introduced when the airport opened in 1962, the lounges were designed to bring passengers directly from terminals to the aircraft. There are two types: the mobile lounges and Plane Mates.

Both models were built by the Chrysler Corporation along with the Budd Company. With flat roofs, the mobile lounges are still used to shuttle passengers between terminals. The Plane Mates, on the other hand, can be raised and lowered to attach to aircraft similar to a jetbridge.

The airport has a fleet of 19 mobile lounges and 30 Plane Mates. Each model will get an overhaul, which includes interior upgrades in addition to drive train and engine overhauls.

Ryan Ewing
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  • Ryan Ewing

    Ryan founded AirlineGeeks.com back in February 2013 and has amassed considerable experience in the aviation sector. His work has been featured in several publications and news outlets, including CNN, WJLA, CNET, and Business Insider. During his time in the industry, he's worked in roles pertaining to airport/airline operations while holding a B.S. in Air Transportation Management from Arizona State University along with an MBA. Ryan has experience in several facets of the industry from behind the yoke of a Cessna 172 to interviewing airline industry executives. Ryan works for AirlineGeeks' owner FLYING Media, spearheading coverage in the commercial aviation space.

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