For an Airport That's Closed, It's the Liveliest Spot in New Orleans

Helicopters and military transport planes land and take off constantly, more than 4,000 soldiers and airmen now live and work within the 2.5-square-mile complex, and a triage center treats more than 100 patients each day.

He now measures his success by the smoothness of the military and humanitarian operation based at the airport. ''We have a very important role to play in the rescue and recovery effort,'' he said.

Mr. Williams does not reject the idea that the airport may be revived as a conduit for tourists. He is aiming to have commercial flights resume on Sept. 19 -- on a much-diminished schedule. He said he assumed that New Orleans would be restored to its place as a major tourist destination.

''It's a pretty big assumption,'' he said, ''but I think you can make the case for it.''



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