National Gets Nod for More Flights

National Gets Nod for More Flights

Norman Mineta announced last week that Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will be able to return to a pre-Sept. 11 level of operations.

In his announcement, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mineta said that the airport would now be permitted to receive larger aircraft, that more direct flight paths could now be used and that planes can land at the airport during nighttime hours if they meet the noise-abatement rules the airport has imposed.

This will increase the number of daily flights by about 50 and will return airport operations to pre-Sept. 11 status except for general aviation, which is still not allowed.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), which operates National and Dulles, has lobbied for these final restrictions to be lifted for some time.

"We have always wanted to return to pre-Sept. 11 status," said Tara Hamilton, a spokesperson for MWAA, in an earlier interview. "We have a limited number of flights that land between 10 p.m. and midnight and a few others that land and take off between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. These aircraft meet stricter noise-abatement guidelines, and we don’t want to change that."

The ability to make more direct approaches will also decrease some of the noise over some sectors of the area.

The announcement took effect immediately, and airlines could have begun operating on the increased levels by last weekend. But it will likely be the end of June before airlines are ready to resume service at National equal to last summer.