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Flying Again
Washington's Reagan National to Reopen

audio Listen to NPR's Oct. 4 report on the airport's reopening.

audio Listen to NPR's report on Bush's Oct. 2 announcement.

Oct. 2, 2001 -- It was the last U.S. airport to remain closed after the Sept. 11 terror attacks against the World Trade Center and Pentagon, but Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will reopen Thursday amid stringent new security precautions, President Bush announced.

"There really is no greater symbol that America's back in business than the reopening of this airport," Bush said.

The control tower at Reagan National Airport

The control tower at Reagan National.
Photo: Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

Three weeks after they were halted, flights will resume on a limited basis to select airports. The reopening is symbolic: the facility is known as "the nation's airport" and members of Congress like to use it because of its proximity to the Capitol. But it is that closeness to Washington landmarks that made security experts nervous. Those concerns played a key role in Bush's decision.

"We can assure the American public as best as we can that we're taking the necessary safety precautions. Now it's time to start flying again," Bush said in making the announcement at the airport. He said stepped up security will include the presence of air marshals aboard flights that use the airport.

Bush came under pressure from local and state officials, as well as members of Congress, who cited the heavy financial blow to the Washington region's economy from the airport's closure. Hotels, taxi services, restaurants and other travel and tourist related businesses have suffered heavy losses. Thousands of airport workers were forced into unemployment lines.

The region's travelers have access to two other airports, Washington Dulles International and Baltimore-Washington International. But the closure of National had a major impact on the Washington area. Last year, nearly 16 million passengers used the airport -- more than 40,000 per day. More than 10,000 people are employed at National, which contributes $5 billion to the region's economy. A new terminal opened four years ago and nearly 100 shops and restaurants cater to the public. US Airways has a major hub at National, and shuttering the airport was expected to deal a crippling blow to the financially troubled airline. A major renovation plan at Washington Dulles was in peril because the regional airports authority is relying on revenues from National to help fund the project.

National Airport Timeline

1938: President Franklin Roosevelt selects the site for the new Washington National Airport.

1940: President Roosevelt dedicates the Washington National Airport.

June 16, 1941: Airport opens for business, with one hangar completed and five under construction.

1949: First fixed-based operator (private aircraft service) opens for general aviation business.

1950: South extension of Main Terminal completed.

1956: Runway 9/27 closes, becomes taxiway Alpha.

1958: North Terminal opens. Pan American Airlines' first jet (Boeing 707) christened at National Airport

1964: Air cargo building is built.

1965: Construction of United Airlines facilities completed.

1966: Jet aircraft begin operating at National Airport.

1968: American Airlines facility and gates open.

1970: Commuter Terminal Opens. Northwest/TWA facilities open.

1977: Metrorail begins service to the airport.

Jan. 13, 1982: Air Florida Flight 90 crashes into the 14th Street Bridge during a snowstorm after taking off from National Airport, killing nearly 80 people on board and on the ground.

1982: Nighttime noise level limitations policy put into effect.

1986: President Reagan signs bill transferring the operation of National and Dulles to a new regional Airports Authority.

1987: The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority begins operations.

1989: Interim Terminal (Hangar 11) opens. Commuter Terminal closed.

1993: Construction starts on the New Terminal.

July 27, 1997: The New Terminal opens.

1998: Airport name officially changed to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Sept. 13, 2001: Reagan National is closed until further notice following terrorist attacks against the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

Oct. 4, 2001: Reagan National set to reopen amid heightened security steps.

Source: Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

Other Resources

Reagan National Washington National Airport Web site

Text of President Bush's remarks Oct. 2, 2001, announcing the reopening of Reagan National Airport and a White House fact sheet on new procedures for the airport

audio Listen to NPR's Don Gonyea report on Oct. 2, 2001, about President Bush's announcement that Reagan National will be reopened.

audio Listen to All Things Considered host Noah Adams talk Oct. 2, 2001, with a Delta Airlines pilot about what it's like to fly in and out of Reagan National.

audio Listen to NPR's Don Gonyea report on Oct. 1, 2001, about how President Bush moved to approve the reopening of Reagan National.

audio Listen to NPR's Snigdha Prakash report on Oct. 1, 2001, about how Reagan National's closure has had a far-reaching impact on the Washington, D.C., region's economy.

audio Listen to NPR's Brian Naylor report on Sept. 27, 2001, about the effects of closing Reagan National.

audio Listen to All Things Considered host Noah Adams report on Sept. 19, 2001, about Reagan National.

audio Listen to NPR's Guy Raz report on May 25, 2000, about General Accounting Office findings that show airports, such as Reagan National, and key government office buildings to be susceptible to potential acts of terrorism.

audio Listen to NPR's Mary Ann Akers report on Dec. 2, 1999, about Reagan National Airport's failure to pass a security test.

audio Listen to NPR's Snigda Prakash report on June 23, 2001, about the controversy over changing signs for Washington's Metro to reflect the new name for Reagan National Airport.

audio Listen to a July 30, 1997, report in which Morning Edition host Joe Palca visits National Airport's new terminal building and talks with James Wilding, general manager of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

audio Listen to a Feb. 2, 1998, report on the controversy over a proposal to rename the airport after former President Reagan.