- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will be reopened, but not before federal task forces release two reports on airline and airport security Oct. 1, congressional sources say.
Federal authorities are waiting for security recommendations from the two panels assembled by Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the sources said yesterday.
Those panels' reports would "act as cover" when Reagan Airport is reopened, according to the sources, who asked not be identified and were knowledgeable about a high-level meeting Tuesday night and other meetings throughout the week. The meetings included members of the National Security Council, the departments of Transportation and Defense, and Federal Aviation Administration chief Jane Garvey.
Federal authorities do not want to open the airport unless they can show, through these reports, that they have done everything in their power to prevent future hijackings, sources said.
The anticipated reports, which include six aviation experts' answers to Mr. Mineta on airport and aircraft security, are due Oct. 1.
The airport, which serves about 45,000 people each day and generates $5 billion annually, has been shut since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Rep. James P. Moran, a Virginia Democrat who represents the airport, said he "wouldn't be surprised if the [federal security officials keep] it closed" until those reports come out.
"We're looking at at least another couple of weeks. I hope I'm wrong," Mr. Moran said yesterday.
The airport probably will start serving commuter shuttles first, federal officials said.
James A. Wilding, president and chief executive of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages the airport as well as Washington Dulles International, says the uncertainty surrounding Reagan Airport's reopening is frustrating but doesn't criticize the decision to close the airport. He wants a specific date for the reopening so the airport can move on with business.
The airport is losing "several hundreds of thousands of dollars" each day it remains closed," Mr. Wilding said in an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday.
Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, Republican, was joined by Mr. Moran, Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, Sen. George F. Allen, Virginia Republican, and hundreds of soon-to-be unemployed workers in the "C" Terminal at Reagan Airport to announce a series of measures that may blunt the economic loss those workers are feeling as well as to urge the federal government to order the airport open as quickly as possible.
"There is no reason why the other airports should be open and this one should be closed," said Mr. Gilmore. "They have a belief that an airplane this close to, obviously, very rich targets in [the area] needs to have special attention. We disagree with that."
He said he would temporarily eliminate the one-week wait requirement for workers to receive unemployment benefits, move the effective date to get benefits back to Sept. 9, and eliminate the requirement that furloughed employees must look for work as they wait for the airport to open.
In the long term, Mr. Gilmore has assembled a task force to look at ways Virginia's economy can regain strength after the attacks. He said a six-week timetable for a report was ideal and would allow for the panel to examine how military deployments in the Hampton Roads, Va., area have affected the state's economy.
He also stressed that keeping Reagan Airport closed would be a victory for terrorists.
Security has been heightened at airports across the country, Mr. Allen said, and that increased sense of awareness should apply to Reagan Airport.
Leaving 10,000 persons with jobs tied directly to the airport out of work is not fair, he said. About 70,000 persons rely on the airport for their income, including the 10,000 who work there.
"They need to see this," Mr. Allen said, referring to the hundreds of airline and airport workers who assembled to hear Mr. Gilmore speak yesterday morning.
Included in the thousands put out of work at the airport are shops, restaurants and coffee stands that bring in $50 million in sales a year. They now are losing $145,000 every day, and the hardest-hit workers are those earning the minimum wage.
"It's just heartbreaking that through no fault of their own they are limited in their ability to buy food or provide shelter," Virginia state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple said.
The Cheesecake Factory, which employs many of those lower-wage positions, has seen its three shops in the airport get pummeled. One employee said that the 5:30 a.m-1 p.m. stretch typically generates more than $2,800, mostly from sales of Starbucks coffee.
Now that total is around $350.
One of the store's managers, Henry L. Smith, said business has bottomed out as the airport's closure has meant thousands of workers have dwindled to a few hundred who come for a morning cup of coffee.
"Every day, it gets slower," he said.
"I worry most about the sole proprietors," Mr. Wilding said. "We're doing everything we can to save them."
*Donna De Marco contributed to this report.

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