- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

The Department of Transportation said it will be at least another month if not longer before Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is allowed to reopen to full-flight capacity.
"It's up to us to get the timing and the specifics [worked out], and we plan to outline a plan for full-reopening of National Airport in a month," said Bill Mosley, public affairs specialist for the Department of Transportation. He also added, "That's not to say it will be reopened in a month."
Mr. Mosley would not comment on the specifics of the plan and said nothing definitive had been decided. He said it was too early to tell what the plan might entail and noted that both the White House and the Secret Service would be involved in any final decision.
Since September 11, Reagan Airport has been at least partially closed. It was the last commercial airport to reopen after the attacks shut down the country's aviation industry, and is currently flying at only 77 percent of what it was on Sept. 10. Private flying at the airport is still banned.
In addition to fewer flights, the airport has also changed flight path procedures for security meausures. Flights leaving Reagan Airport used to fly outbound over the Potomac River. Now they fly out over residential communities in Northwest and suburban Maryland.
Mr. Mosley was not aware of any changes planned for the flight paths.
James A. Wilding, president of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said that noise is something that goes hand in hand with airports, and that fixing this problem might take time.
"There is nothing simple about noise," Mr. Wilding said. "Airports are always going to have the noise dimension to them."
But Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting congressional representative, said the flight plan needs to change back to its pre-September 11 route. Residents of the area have been very patient, she said, while waiting for the government to remove the "noisy precautions" because they are no longer necessary.
"I am adopting the standard of the president, who said we should get back to normalcy," said Mrs. Norton.
The delay in reopening Reagan Airport to full-flight capacity has frustrated D.C. officials, who say the continued slowdown is bad for the area's economy.
"We need to get this done at a faster pace," Mrs. Norton said. "This is particularly important considering that 40 percent of the income to the authority comes from National."
Revenue from the airport goes to projects at other airports, including Washington Dulles International Airport.
Mrs. Norton is also concerned that if the airport is not at full capacity soon, the region, which depends heavily on tourism, will miss out on spring tourists. The Cherry Blossom Festival, one of the main tourist attractions in the District, begins early next month. Many schools from around the country also bring children to the city for field trips in the spring.
Mrs. Norton met yesterday with Mr. Wilding as well as Norman M. Glasgow Jr., chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority about Reagan Airport. They all unanimously called on Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta to speed up the process of returning the airport to full flight capacity.
"Getting the airport open 100 percent is critical priority," Mr. Glasgow said. He added that he was in "full agreement" with what Mrs. Norton was trying to accomplish.

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