- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Private aircraft are not likely to get permission any time soon to fly out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said yesterday.
Mr. Mineta testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure aviation subcommittee on the progress of the new Transportation Security Administration in protecting the nation's airways and other transportation systems.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting Democratic member of Congress, asked Mr. Mineta, "Why, nine or 10 months after September 11, is this the only airport that is down?"
She was referring to the ban on private aircraft using Reagan Airport imposed by the Transportation Department after the September 11 attacks.
Mr. Mineta said classified intelligence reports he received indicated an ongoing threat to key government facilities if private aircraft were allowed to use the airport.
"After talking about those intelligence reports, we decided we would not be proceeding with the reopening of DCA," Mr. Mineta said, referring to Reagan Airport by its airline-industry code.
Continuing the ban is an abrupt change from earlier Transportation Department statements.
At a congressional hearing May 9, Read Van de Water, the Transportation Department's assistant secretary for aviation, predicted the airport would reopen for small, privately owned aircraft by midsummer.
"There has not been a desire to keep general aviation out," Mr. Van de Water said.
General aviation refers to privately owned aircraft that seat no more than 19 passengers. They include business jets and single-engine turboprops.
Before September 11 about 175 private aircraft used Reagan Airport daily.


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