- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 13, 2001

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are likely to result in the elimination of transcontinental flights from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport that were put into place only after a tough political fight last year, according to local officials.
Transcontinental flights may pose a greater security risk to the Washington region than shorter flights because they use larger planes with heavier fuel loads, according to Rep. James P. Moran, a Virginia Democrat whose district includes the airport.
"I'm not sure we'll ever see transcontinental flights again from Reagan Airport," Mr. Moran said.
He said the flights ultimately may find themselves limited to Washington Dulles or Baltimore-Washington international airports.
President Bush ordered the airport's Oct. 4 reopening but he temporarily limited service to eight cities, all but two of which are in the Eastern United States. Planes with more than 156 seats were also barred.
In about two weeks, the Department of Transportation is scheduled to add another 10 cities to that list as part of the second phase of re-establishing operations at the airport. A department spokesman said those cities have not been chosen.
An undefined third phase would further expand flights.
If the transcontinental flights were eliminated, it would mark an unexpected end to a bruising political battle that the Virginia congressional delegation lost. Last year, Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who at the time headed the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, pushed through a bill that provided for six transcontinental flights from Reagan Airport.
Virginia lawmakers complained that the bill, which authorized flights beyond the airport's 1,250-mile "perimeter," would result in added noise for residents near the airport and draw business away from Dulles and BWI.
After the legislation was approved, the airport began offering service last year covering Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver and Seattle.
Now, the Sept. 11 attacks may accomplish what the Virginia congressional delegation could not.
Even Mr. McCain, whose dogged support was crucial to passing the legislation, is relenting, saying he would not interfere with a decision to stop the longer flights.
"Mr. McCain has said he will rely on security experts and respect their decision about security at Reagan Airport," said Pia Pialorsi, Mr. McCain's spokeswoman on the Senate commerce panel.
The carriers that offered service to West Coast destinations are still eager to resume flights.
Alaska Airlines, which had begun a flight that linked Washington to Seattle and Anchorage only one week before the attacks, said it definitely wants to return to Reagan Airport.
"We absolutely want to get back to Reagan Airport," said spokesman Jack Walsh. "We fought hard to get there."
Alaska is currently flying into Dulles, Mr. Walsh said. It had been flying a 172-seat Boeing 737-900 into Reagan Airport but has switched to a Boeing 737-700 because demand is now much lower. If its service to Reagan were resumed, it would continue to use the smaller plane to comply with the size restrictions.
America West, which serves Phoenix and Las Vegas, has stopped serving Washington altogether, said spokesman Jim Sabourin.
"At this point, those flights are not on our schedule," Mr. Sabourin said. "And that's a very good route for us."
Both airlines said the Department of Transportation has not given any indication as to whether they will be able to resume flying in the next phase of opening Reagan Airport.

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