- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

President Bush went to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport yesterday to formally announce its reopening tomorrow.

"There really is no greater symbol that America's back in business than the reopening of this airport," Mr. Bush said from a deserted terminal at the airport. "By opening this airport, we're making yet another statement to the terrorists: You can't win."

Said Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III: "This airport is a beacon and a symbol of freedom, not just for this community but for this entire nation."

The airport will open in two phases. In the first phase, which will last about three weeks, 190 flights will resume to eight hub cities served by six airlines. Destinations include New York City, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas.

In the second phase, 30 to 45 days later, direct flights to another 10 as-yet-undetermined cities will resume. Under phase two, there will be about 450 daily flights about 57 percent of the number of daily flights before Sept. 11.

"We're doing the right thing," Mr. Bush said. "We've taken our time. We can assure the American public as best we can that we've taken the necessary safety precautions. Now, it's time to start flying again."

In addition to armed air marshals aboard and new flight paths, the airport will also:

• Limit carry-on luggage to one bag plus a purse or briefcase.

• Implement random checks with hand-held metal detectors.

• Expand police, including plainclothes officers, and canine units in terminals.

• Require flight crews to be "dedicated" exclusively to Reagan Airport.

The new flight paths will take airliners over populated areas because the "river visual approach" a path used to mitigate noise will be discontinued. The river approach took airplanes far closer to Washington's monuments and federal buildings, including the White House, the Capitol and the Pentagon.

Sen. George F. Allen, Virginia Republican, said he hopes residents will accept the additional noise as a small price to pay. "That's the sound of America getting back to work," said Mr. Allen, adding that Virginia Beach residents who hear planes flying in and out of nearby military bases say the noise is "the sound of freedom."

Noise will be reduced somewhat because aircraft will be limited in size to 156 seats, meaning the Boeing 737 will be the largest jet allowed to land at the airport.

Members of the Virginia congressional delegation joined Mr. Bush for the event. Rep. James P. Moran, a Democrat whose district includes the airport, said plans also call for cockpit doors on arriving and departing planes to be bolted.

Private planes are still banned from flying within 28 miles of the District. Mr. Moran said efforts are under way to reduce the no-fly zone to allow private planes to use Washington Dulles International Airport, which is within the zone. Under the plan outlined yesterday, private planes now housed at Reagan Airport would be moved to Dulles, and Reagan would remain off-limits to private aircraft.

Reagan Airport employs more than 10,000 workers and normally moves 42,000 travelers in and out of the region daily. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority estimates that the airport pumps $2.4 billion a year into the local economy.

"One of the things those of us who live in the area understand, this airport is really important for the local economy, as well. There's a lot of people, a lot of small-business people, a lot of people who service the airport, obviously a lot of people who work here, depend upon this airport being open," Mr. Bush said.

"And I understand that. And I appreciate once again your patience and understanding, as our nation obviously is dealing with a tragedy, the likes of which we never envisioned."

Pilots said the new plan is workable.

"We've safely flown in and out of National Airport for many, many, many years," said Capt. John Cox, executive air safety chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association. "We need to get that airport open. Every day that we don't, we stand directly affected by the acts of the madmen."

But an aviation watchdog group had a different view.

"This move would make the capital vulnerable to renewed aviation terrorist attacks and would send the message that the U.S. is not really serious about homeland defense," said Paul Hudson, director of the Aviation Consumer Action Project.

Mr. Hudson recommended that Reagan Airport instead be used as the headquarters and training ground for the new Office of Homeland Security, and as the base for Air Force jets flying over Washington.

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