- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 18, 2005

General aviation made its long-awaited return to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport yesterday when a business jet completed a ceremonial flight just as the sky began to brighten.

A ban that kept most business jets from landing at Reagan Airport ended after more than four years. Its repeal comes with scores of new regulations, however.

Just two arrivals were scheduled yesterday as aircraft operators figure out how to comply with the new rules.

“We don’t want to compromise security, but we think the more workable the process is, the more operations we will continue to see,” said Dan Hubbard, spokesman for the National Business Aviation Association Inc., which represents more than 7,000 corporations operating private aircraft.

After the early morning arrival of the flight from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, the plane taxied through an arch of water streaming from a pair of firetrucks.

Jet Aviation Holding Inc., based at Teterboro Airport, made the inaugural flight.

Federal security officials are allowing just 48 slots a day for arrivals and departures, and aircraft only can fly to Reagan Airport from 12 “gateway” airports where federal security officials will screen passengers and crew members, and search baggage and cargo holds.

Aircraft operators must submit flight plans, names of all crew members and passengers to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for background checks and security-threat assessments. Private aircraft must apply with the TSA at least one day before departure for permission to fly into Reagan Airport. An armed security officer must be aboard each flight.

The TSA will charge aircraft operators $296 for each round trip in and out of Reagan Airport and $15 to conduct a background check of each passenger and crew member on a flight.

Corporate jets account for 90 percent of private, noncommercial flights at Reagan Airport. Advocates of business aviation lobbied tirelessly for repeal of the ban, arguing that private flights in and out of the airport pose little security risk despite the facility’s proximity to the White House and U.S. Capitol.

Reagan Airport was closed to all aircraft for 22 days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The federal government reopened it Oct. 4, 2001, allowing a limited number of commercial flights to resume. Restrictions on all commercial flights were lifted April 27, 2002.

But a moratorium on private aircraft remained in place.

Resuming general aviation flights is expected to be a boon for the airport, the region’s hotels and other businesses. The ban on private aircraft resulted in an estimated loss of $280 million to businesses, according to the National Business Aviation Association.

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