Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington County, Virginia is the closest commercial airport to Washington, D.C. Its IATA Airport Code is DCA. It is named after Ronald Reagan, former United States President, and, by extension George Washington.
Because of limited gate availability and local noise limitations, almost all flights are to destinations within 2000 km (1250 miles). Notable are the US Airways Shuttle and Delta Shuttle hourly flights to New York City and Boston, which are a favorite of federal officials and of those who have business with the federal government.
Washington National Airport was built by the federal government on mudflats alongside the Potomac River at Gravelly Point, 7 km (4½ miles) south of Washington, D.C. It replaced Hoover Field, which was located near the present-day Pentagon and had a single runway intersected by a local street (guards had to stop auto traffic during takeoffs and landings). National Airport opened on June 16, 1941.
Although it represented a vast improvement over Hoover Field, due to the location, the Airport has long been a safety concern because it offers very limited runway options. Flights taking off to the north are required to climb quickly and bank left sharply to avoid the Washington Monument and follow a path which does not go over either the White House or the Pentagon. This path is the opposite of the dreaded southbound "River Visual" approach path, (used for landings), which is considered by many pilots to be very treacherous even under favorable weather conditions.
On the afternoon of January 13, 1982, following a period of exceptionally cold weather and a morning of blizzard conditions, Air Florida Flight 90 crashed after waiting on a taxiway for 49 minutes and taking off with ice and snow on the wings. The Boeing 737 aircraft failed to gain altitude and less than 1 mile from the end of the runway, struck the 14th Street Bridge complex, shearing the tops off vehicles stuck in traffic before plunging through the 1 inch thick ice covering the Potomac River. Rescue responses were greatly hampered by the weather and traffic. Due to heroic actions initiated by a number of motorists, a United States Park Service police helicopter crew, and one of the plane's passengers who perished, 5 occupants of the downed plane survived. However, 74 persons who had been aboard the doomed airplane and 4 occupants of vehicles on the bridge died.
The federal government relinquished control of National Airport as well as Washington Dulles International Airport in 1987, when President Ronald Reagan signed the bill that created the independent Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
In February 6, 1998, President Bill Clinton signed legislation changing the airport's name from Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, to honor the former president on his 87th birthday. Its original name remains on the stone facade of the main terminal, and it is still widely known as "National Airport".
Prior to the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks, the airport had 792 scheduled commercial flights a day. After the attacks the airport was closed for several weeks, and additional security procedures remain in place for flights into and out of DCA.
Because of its proximity to central Washington, National Airport has been subject to special security procedures for many years. Before 2001, the most notable of these was the southbound approach into the airport. Most of central Washington is restricted airspace up to 18,000 feet: in order to land on National's southbound runway, pilots had to follow the path of the Potomac River and make a steep turn shortly before landing, in a procedure called the "River Visual." Employees in high-rise buildings nearby often claimed that they could see passengers' faces in the windows of airplanes flying by.
When National reopened after September 11, it was subjected to much stricter security measures. Passengers must now remain seated for 30 minutes after takeoff from National, and also for 30 minutes before landing at National. The River Visual approach was also banned until mid-2002. A law was also passed banning aircraft of more than 156 seats at National. In addition, private planes were no longer allowed access to the airport (with rare exceptions). All of these regulations were intended to prevent terrorist activity similar to the September 11 attacks, when hijackers flew large aircraft into prominent buildings.
Terminals, airlines, and destinations
The airport is subject to a federal "perimeter rule" and is not permitted to accommodate flights to most cities outside a 1,250 mile radius. The Federal Aviation Administration has allowed six exceptions: Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Seattle.
Most flights from Washington to the western U.S. (and almost all international flights) use Washington Dulles International Airport (Dulles). Many flights are also available at Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI), which is located 30 miles northeast of Washington.
Terminal A was the original terminal at National Airport. It opened in 1941 and was expanded over the following years to its present size, with the final expansion completed in 1955. The terminal still accommodates some flights, and it is presently being renovated to restore its original architecture. It has nine gates (gates 1 through 9).
- AirTran: Atlanta (Hartsfield-Jackson)
- ATA Airlines: Chicago (Midway)
- Midwest Airlines: Kansas City (Kansas City International), Milwaukee (Mitchell Field), Omaha (Eppley Airfield)
- Northwest Airlines: Detroit (Detroit Metropolitan), Memphis (Memphis International), Minneapolis/St. Paul)
- Northwest Airlink: Indianapolis (Indianapolis International), Lansing (Capital City), Milwaukee (Mitchell)
- Spirit Airlines (Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Myrtle Beach)
- America West Airlines: Las Vegas (McCarran International), Phoenix (Phoenix Sky Harbor)
- Continental Airlines: Cleveland (Hopkins International), Houston (George Bush Intercontinental Airport), Newark (Newark Liberty)
- Continental Express (Cleveland, Newark)
- Delta Air Lines: Atlanta, Cincinnati (Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport), Dallas (Dallas/Fort Worth International, New York City (JFK International), Salt Lake City (Salt Lake City International)
- Delta Connection (ASA/Comair): Birmingham, Boston (Logan), Charleston SC (Charleston International), Cincinnati, Columbus (Port Columbus), Dallas/Fort Worth, Huntsville (Huntsville International), Jackson (Jackson-Evers), Lexington
- Delta Shuttle: New York City (LaGuardia Airport)
- Frontier Airlines: Denver (Denver International)
- Air Canada: Montreal (Trudeau), Toronto (Pearson)
- Alaska Airlines: Los Angeles (Los Angeles International), Seattle/Tacoma
- American Airlines: Chicago (O'Hare), Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami (Miami International), St. Louis (Lambert Field)
- American Connection: St. Louis (Lambert Field)
- American Eagle: Boston, Nashville (Nashville International), New York City (JFK International and LaGuardia), Raleigh/Durham
- United Airlines: Chicago (O'Hare), Denver
- US Airways: Albany, Bermuda, Buffalo, Charlotte (Charlotte Douglas), Columbus, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Hartford (Bradley), Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Manchester, Nassau, New Orleans, Orlando, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh International), Providence, Rochester, Syracuse (Hancock International), Tampa, West Palm Beach
- US Airways
- US Airways Express (Chautauqua Airlines, Mesa Airlines, Piedmont Airlines, and PSA Airlines): Albany, Asheville, Birmingham, Burlington, Charleston SC, Charleston WV, Chattanooga, Chicago (O'Hare), Cleveland, Columbia, Columbus, Dallas/Fort Worth, Dayton, Detroit (Detroit Metropolitan), Greensboro, North Carolina, Greenville/Spartanburg, Hartford, Houston (Bush Intercontinental), Huntsville, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Knoxville, Manchester, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Nashville, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland ME, Providence, Raleigh/Durham, Rochester, Salisbury/Ocean City, Syracuse, Toronto, Westchester County)
- US Airways Shuttle: Boston, New York City (LaGuardia)
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