FAQ

Will I get to sit in an airplane cockpit?
In the past, sitting in a cockpit has been allowed by many of the pilots. However, many of the visiting aircraft are privately owned, and the decision to allow visitors in the cockpit is up to each individual pilot.

Will there be airplane performances?
No, but have you ever been so close to a 747 in flight you felt you could almost reach out and touch it? The Center’s Observation Tower is renowned as one of the best plane spotting locations in the world! The tower is open starting at 10 am. The line to the Tower closes before the Museum closes. Please see the Welcome Center for exact times. Bring your binoculars for an even better view of the passing passenger jets. And if you are there between 1:00 and 1:30 pm, you may get the chance to see the Airbus A380, which is now making daily flights to Dulles.

Will I be able to ride in an airplane?
The Center will be filled with free opportunities for you to gain experience as a “pilot” whether it is through trying your hand at free navigation, air to ground communication, or even flight simulation activities for people of all ages. In addition, you can experience the thrill of being a space shuttle pilot or a mission controller in the Center’s realistic space shuttle simulators.

For a more immersive, full motion experience—you can purchase admission to simulator rides inside the Center. More information.

You can also experience the thrill of being a fighter pilot by seeing Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag in the Airbus IMAX Theater. Surround-sound and the giant screen guarantee a pure adrenaline rush! Ticket information.

Because of the Center’s proximity to Washington Dulles International Airport, actual airplane rides are not allowed.

Can I watch the visiting airplanes arrive and depart?
There are no runways at the Center itself. The airplanes will be landing the night before or early in the day at Washington Dulles Airport and then taxiing to the museum.

When they depart, however, you will be able to watch the aircraft from a safe distance as they fire up and leave the museum ramp. Depending on the direction of the wind you should be able to see the aircraft when they depart as they fly past the museum.

Will all of the aircraft described in your advertising appear?
We expect that to be the case, but due to factors beyond our control, some aircraft may not appear as scheduled. We regret any inconvenience if that happens. Many of the aircraft are unable to fly in adverse weather conditions which can include reduced visibility due to haze.

Can I bring food?
There are picnic tables outside the Center near the parking lot, and you are welcome to eat there. However, no food can be brought into the Center or out by the visiting aircraft. Water fountains are located throughout the Center, and food service is available from the McDonald’s Café inside the Center.

Bottled water is allowed inside and outside.

Can I take pictures?
Yes, you are encouraged to take all the photos or video you would like for personal use. Commercial photographers, please contact the Office of Communications.

What happens if the weather is bad?
The event takes place rain or shine. However, inclement weather might prevent some airplanes from landing that day. In any event, all the planned Become a Pilot Day activities will be available inside the Center.

How much does it cost?
The aviation display and all activities are free, but there is a $15 fee per car for parking.

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