- The Washington Times - Friday, July 15, 2005


The airport near the nation’s capital is getting closer to normal after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will reopen to private aviation in mid-August, the Transportation Security Administration said yesterday.

The rules will be strict, however, and inconvenient.

In another sign of easing, yesterday the rule at Reagan Airport that passengers on commercial airliners must remain seated for a half-hour after taking off and before landing was rescinded.

The airport was closed to private planes after the September 11 attacks.

Commercial airline flights were resumed about a month later, but passengers had to remain seated within 30 minutes of takeoff and landing.

Since then, 22 flights have been diverted from the airport because passengers left their seats. Most of those flights landed at Washington Dulles International Airport.

In the years following the attacks, Congress pressured the Transportation Security Administration to open Reagan Washington National Airport to private planes.

The agency said in May it would allow about four flights an hour for 12 hours daily — a maximum of about 17,500 a year — under strict security precautions.

Before the terror attacks, about 35,000 private and charter flights flew in and out of Reagan Airport every year.

The security restrictions include:

• Flight crews must have fingerprint-based background checks; law-enforcement officers, trained and licensed by the TSA, must accompany each flight.

• Flights will have to land first at one of 12 gateway airports, where passengers and baggage will be screened and the planes inspected.

• Passengers must undergo background checks by the TSA.

The TSA is charging $15 per person for the background check and $296 per plane for the cost of authorizing the flight.

Critics have said the rules are so cumbersome that only corporate jets will be ably to comply with them.

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