Senators Seeking more Flights; Two from West Coast want more Takeoffs from Reagan Airport

May 23, 2007
Senators looking to increase the number of cross-country flights out of Reagan National Airport

Two West Coast senators are leading an effort to increase the number of cross-country flights out of Reagan National Airport. The move could lead to more noise over neighborhoods and jam already filled parking lots.

Sens. Gordon H. Smith, R-Ore., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., have amended a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill to allow up to 20 additional takeoffs and landings a day.

Airport officials say National can't handle more flights, and neighbors say they don't want more low-flying jets over their roofs.

The senators "want the convenience of going to National Airport rather than trucking out to Dulles," said U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr., D-Va., whose district includes National and who opposes more flights.

"But that's just my speculation. I'm sure it's just a coincidence. But this would not be the first time a senator passed national policy based on their personal convenience."

Moran said that the effort to add flights has a good chance of succeeding because similar proposals have been passed twice previously.

The full Senate will consider the bill in the next two months. There is no bill in the House.

Destinations for new long-distance flights, which would be determined by the U.S. Department of Transportation, have not been chosen. But the bill mandates that 12 of the flights would go to the western United States.

"It's about connecting West and East Coast economic centers," said R.C. Hammond, spokesman for Smith, elaborating on the senator's motivation for the amendment.

Cantwell's office did not return four calls requesting comment.

There are two nonstop flights to Cantwell's state from National but none to Smith's.

Because of National's relatively small size and past problems with congestion, in 1969 the FAA placed caps on arrivals and departures.

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