Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Washington National Airport
|IATA: DCA – ICAO: KDCA – FAA LID: DCA|
|Owner||Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority|
|Operator||Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority|
|Serves||Washington Metropolitan Area|
|Location||Arlington County, Virginia|
|Hub for||US Airways|
|Elevation AMSL||15 ft / 5 m|
|Source: Federal Aviation Administration|
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (IATA: DCA, ICAO: KDCA, FAA LID: DCA) is a public airport located 3 statute miles (4.8 km) south of downtown Washington, D.C., in Arlington County, Virginia. It is the commercial airport nearest to Washington, D.C. For many decades, the airport was called Washington National, but the airport was renamed Ronald Reagan Washington National in 1998 to honor former U.S. President Ronald W. Reagan. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) operates the airport.
Reagan National is a hub for US Airways, Reagan National's largest carrier. The US Airways Shuttle offers near-hourly air shuttle service to LaGuardia Airport in New York City and Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts. Delta Air Lines' Delta Shuttle also offers near-hourly air shuttle service to LaGuardia.
Other than 40 slot exemptions, flights into and out of DCA are not allowed to exceed 1,250 statute miles in any direction nonstop, in an effort to send the major air traffic volume to the larger but more distant Dulles International Airport. In 2010, the airport served about 18.1 million passengers.
Reagan National only provides US immigration and customs facilities for corporate jet traffic; the only international flights allowed to land at DCA are those from airports with U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance facilities. For all other international passenger flights, those in the Washington Metropolitan Area can use Dulles International Airport west of the city and Baltimore-Washington International Airport northeast of the city.
Hoover Field, near the present site of the Pentagon, was the first major terminal to be developed in the Capital area, opening its doors in 1926. The facility's single runway was intersected by a local street; guards had to stop automobile traffic during takeoffs and landings. The following year Washington Airport, another privately operated field, began service next door. In 1930, the economics of the Great Depression caused the two terminals to merge to form Washington-Hoover Airport. Bordered on the east by U.S. Route 1, with its accompanying high-tension electrical wires, and obstructed by a high smokestack on one approach and a dump nearby, the field was less than adequate.
Although the need for a better airport was acknowledged in 37 studies conducted between 1926 and 1938, there was a statutory prohibition against federal development of airports. When Congress lifted the prohibition in 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a recess appropriation of $15 million to build National Airport by reallocating funds from other purposes. Construction of Washington National Airport began in 1940–41 by a company led by John McShain. Congress challenged the legality of FDR's recess appropriation, but construction of the new airport continued.
The airport is southwest of Washington, D.C. The western part of the airport was once within a large Virginia plantation, a remnant of which is now inside a historic site located near the airport's Metrorail station (see Abingdon (plantation) for history). The eastern part of the airport was constructed in the District of Columbia on and near mudflats that were within the tidal Potomac River near Gravelly Point, about 4 statute miles (6.4 km) from the United States Capitol, using landfill dredged from the Potomac.
The April 1957 Official Airline Guide shows 316 weekday departures: 95 Eastern (plus six flights a week to/from South America), 77 American, 61 Capital, 23 National, 17 TWA, 10 United, 10 Delta, 6 Allegheny, 6 Braniff, 5 Piedmont, 3 Northeast and 3 Northwest.
The runway layout — limited due to the location and orientation of the airport — has changed little, except for the 1956 closure of a fourth, east-west runway now used for taxiing and aircraft parking. The terminal building was supplemented by the completion of the North Terminal in 1958; the two were connected in 1961. A United Airlines holdroom complex was built in 1965, and a facility for American Airlines was completed in 1968. A commuter terminal was constructed in 1970. In March 2012 the main 1/19 runway was lengthened 300 ft to add FAA compliant runway safety areas.
Despite the expansions, several efforts have been made to restrict the growth of the airport. The advent of jet aircraft as well as traffic growth led Congress to pass the Washington Airport Act of 1950, which resulted in the opening of Dulles Airport in 1962. Concerns about aviation noise led to the imposition of noise restrictions even before jet service began in 1966. To reduce congestion and drive traffic to alternative airports, the FAA imposed landing slot and perimeter restrictions on National and four other high-density airports in 1969.
Transfer of control and renaming 
In 1984, Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole appointed a commission to study transferring National and Dulles Airports from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a local entity, which could use airport revenues to finance improvements. The commission recommended that one multi-state agency administer both Dulles and National, over the alternative of having Virginia control Dulles and the District of Columbia control National. In 1987, Congress, through legislation, transferred control of the airport from the FAA to the new Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority with the Authority's decisions being subject to a Congressional review panel. The constitutionality of the review panel was later challenged in the Supreme Court and the Court has twice declared the oversight panel unconstitutional. Even after this decision, however, Congress has continued to intervene in the management of the airports.
On 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. The legislation, passed by Congress in 1998, was drafted against the wishes of MWAA officials and political leaders in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. Opponents of the renaming argued that a large federal office building had already been named for Reagan (the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center) and that the airport was already named for a United States President (George Washington). The bill expressly stated that it did not require the expenditure of any funds to accomplish the name change; however, regional, state and federal authorities were later required to change highway and transit signs at their own additional expense as new signs were made. To this day air traffic controlers in the airport's tower use the call sign "Washington Tower" or less frequently "National Tower". Pilots who call "Reagan Tower" are quickly corrected.
Construction of current terminal buildings 
With the addition of more flights and limited space in the aging main terminal, the airport began an extensive renovation and expansion in the 1990s. Hangar 11 on the northern end of the airport was converted into The USAir Interim Terminal, designed by Joseph C. Giuliani, FAIA. Soon after an addition for Delta Air Lines was added in 1989 and was later converted to Authority offices. These projects allowed for the relocation of several gates in the main terminal until the new $450 million terminal complex became operational. On July 27, 1997, the new terminal complex, consisting of terminals B and C and two parking garages, opened. Argentine architect César Pelli designed the new terminals of the airport. The USAir Interim Terminal closed immediately after the opening and was converted back into a hangar. One pier of the main terminal (now Terminal A), which mainly housed American Airlines and Pan Am, was demolished; the other pier, originally designed for Northwest/TWA remains operational today as gates 1–9. The American Airlines terminal, the Northwest/TWA terminal, and the US Air Interim terminal were designed by Joseph C. Giuliani, FAIA of Giuliani Associates Architects.
Before 1999, Runway 1/19 and 4/22 were originally designated 18/36 and 3/21.
Tightened security and safety concerns 
Given Reagan National Airport's proximity to the city and high-security facilities, Reagan National has extra security precautions required by the Washington Air Defense Identification Zone that have been in place since the airport began operations.
Prior to the September 11 attacks in 2001, the most notable security measure was the southbound approach into the airport. Most of central Washington D.C. is prohibited airspace up to 18,000 feet (5,500 m). Due to this restriction, pilots approaching from the north follow the path of the Potomac River and make a steep turn shortly before landing on the southbound runway. This approach is known as the River Visual. Similarly, flights taking off to the north are required to climb quickly and take a steep left turn, to avoid contact with the Washington Monument or flight over the White House.
After the attacks, the airport was closed for several weeks, and security was tightened extensively when it reopened. Increased security measures included:
- A ban on aircraft with more than 156 seats (lifted in April 2002)
- A ban on the "River Visual" approach (lifted in April 2002)
- A requirement that, 30 minutes prior to landing or following takeoff, passengers were required to remain seated; if anyone stood up, the aircraft was to be diverted to Washington Dulles International Airport under military escort and the person standing would be detained and questioned by federal law enforcement officials (lifted in July 2005)
- A ban on general aviation (lifted in October 2005, subject to the restrictions below)
On October 18, 2005, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport was reopened to general aviation on a limited basis (48 operations per day) and under serious restrictions: passenger and crew manifests must be submitted to the Transportation Security Administration 24 hours in advance, and all planes must pass through one of 27 "gateway airports" where re-inspections of aircraft, passengers, and baggage take place. An armed security officer must be on board before departing a gateway airport.
On March 23, 2011, the air traffic control supervisor on duty reportedly fell asleep during the night shift. Two aircraft on approach to the airport were unable to contact anyone in the control tower and subsequently landed unassisted.
The "River Visual" approach 
Reagan National Airport also has noise restrictions that are some of the most restrictive in the country. Pilots are required to use the "River Visual" approach (used for runway 19), which follows the course of the Potomac River, and is only possible with a ceiling of at least 3,500 feet (1,100 m) and visibility of 3 statute miles (4.8 km) or more. There are lights on the Key Bridge, Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, Arlington Memorial Bridge, and the George Mason Memorial Bridge to aid pilots following the river. Aircraft using the approach can be observed from various parks on the river's west bank. Passengers seated on the left side of an airplane that is landing can easily see the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the World War II Memorial, Georgetown University, the National Mall, and the White House. Passengers seated on the right side can see CIA headquarters, Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, and the United States Air Force Memorial.
When visibility and ceiling are below the minimums for the River Visual and southerly winds restrict northbound runway operations, aircraft fly an offset localizer or GPS approach to Runway 19, again involving a final turn moments before touchdown, or they fly a VOR or GPS approach to either of the shorter Runways 15 and 22, which are marginally usable by air carrier jets.
Perimeter restrictions 
Reagan National Airport is subject to a federally-mandated perimeter limitation and may not accommodate nonstop flights to or from cities beyond a 1,250-statute mile (2,010 km) radius, with limited exceptions. The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued "beyond-perimeter slot exemptions" which allow specified carriers to operate 20 daily round-trip flights to cities outside the perimeter. These exemptions are allocated as follows:
|Alaska Airlines||8 slots operating as 2x Seattle, 1x Los Angeles, 1x Portland, OR|
|American Airlines||2 slots operating as 1x Los Angeles|
|Delta Air Lines||4 slots operating as 2x Salt Lake City|
|Frontier Airlines||6 slots operating as 3x Denver|
|JetBlue Airways||2 slots operating as 1x San Juan|
|Southwest Airlines||2 slots operating as 1x Austin|
|United Airlines||4 slots operating as 1x Denver, 1x San Francisco|
|US Airways||10 slots operating as 3x Phoenix, 1x Las Vegas, 1x San Diego|
|Virgin America||2 slots operating as 1x San Francisco|
In 1999, Senator John McCain of Arizona introduced legislation to remove the 1,250-statute mile (2,010 km) perimeter restriction, infuriating some local residents concerned about noise and traffic from increased service by larger, long-haul aircraft. McCain argued that the move would improve competition, while some congressional staffers thought he was supporting the interests of Phoenix, Arizona-based America West Airlines (AWA). In the end the restriction was not lifted, but the FAA was permitted to add additional exemptions, which went not to AWA but to competitor Alaska Airlines. America West (now US Airways) later gained additional exemptions for non-stop service to Phoenix in 2004.
Originally the airport had no perimeter rule; in 1954-1960 airlines scheduled nonstop flights to California on piston-engine airliners. Scheduled jet airliners were not allowed at all until April 1966; the perimeter rule arrived with them, and apparently applied only to them. The initial perimeter was 650 statute miles (1,050 km), except that airports under 1,000 statute miles (1,600 km) that had scheduled nonstops in 1965 were allowed to retain them. This meant Minneapolis-St Paul was allowed nonstop jet flights but Kansas City, New Orleans, and Fort Lauderdale were not. In 1981 the perimeter became a flat 1,000 statute miles (1,600 km); it expanded to 1,250 statute miles (2,010 km), enough to encompass Houston, in 1986-87.
In May 2012, the U.S. Department of Transportation granted new perimeter exemptions for: Alaska Airlines for service to Portland, Ore.; JetBlue Airways for San Juan, Puerto Rico; Southwest Airlines for Austin, Texas; and Virgin America for San Francisco. Additionally, "the new law also allowed four large carriers already serving Reagan National to exchange a total of eight slots for flights within the perimeter for an equal number of slot exemptions to permit nonstop flights beyond the perimeter. As a result, American Airlines traded one round-trip flight to Dallas-Fort Worth for a flight to Los Angeles, Delta Air Lines traded one round-trip flight to New York LaGuardia Airport for a flight to Salt Lake City, United Airlines traded one round-trip flight to Chicago O’Hare for a flight to San Francisco, and US Airways traded one round-trip flight to Dallas-Fort Worth for a flight to San Diego."
Terminal A 
Terminal A opened in 1941 and was expanded in 1955 to accommodate more passengers and airlines. This terminal is currently undergoing renovation to restore its original architecture, and is expected to be completed in a couple of years.
Terminals B and C 
Terminals B and C opened in 1997, replacing a collection of airline-specific terminals built during the 1960s. The new terminals were designed by architect Cesar Pelli and house 35 gates.
Airlines and destinations 
Passenger service 
Cargo airlines 
|FedEx Express||Memphis, Nashville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis|
Traffic and statistics 
In 2011, Reagan National Airport handled 18,823,094 passengers. US Airways has the largest share of traffic at the airport, accounting for 19.97% as of June 2012[update]. Delta Air Lines, the second largest, accounts for 13.00% of traffic, with American Airlines in third at 12.71%.
|1||Atlanta, Georgia||846,000||AirTran, Delta|
|2||Chicago (O'Hare), Illinois||718,000||American, United|
|3||Boston, Massachusetts||677,000||JetBlue, US Airways|
|4||Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas||428,000||American, US Airways|
|6||New York (LaGuardia), New York||400,000||Delta, US Airways|
|7||Orlando, Florida||361,000||AirTran, JetBlue, US Airways|
|8||Fort Lauderdale, Florida||325,000||JetBlue, US Airways|
|9||Charlotte, North Carolina||285,000||US Airways|
|10||Detroit, Michigan||269,000||Delta, US Airways|
|2||Delta Air Lines||3,232,701|
|10||Sun Country Airlines||70,307|
|Passengers||Change from previous year||Aircraft operations||Cargo
Ground transportation 
The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (WMATA station) on the Washington Metro serving the Yellow and Blue lines is located on an elevated outdoor platform station adjacent to Terminals B and C. An elevated pedestrian walkway connects the station directly to the concourse levels of Terminals B and C. An underground pedestrian walkway and shuttle service provides access to Terminal A.
Metrobus provides service on weekend mornings before the Metrorail station opens or during any disruptions to regular Metrorail service.
Taxicab services are available at the Ground Transportation area of all terminal buildings. Taxicabs that serve the airport are required to be licensed and are regulated by either Washington, D.C. or Virginia local governments.
Airport Shuttle 
Shared-ride shuttle services are available from several providers including SuperShuttle and Supreme Shuttle.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is located on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and connected to U.S. Route 1 by the Airport Viaduct (State Route 233). Interstate 395 is just north of DCA, and is accessible by the G.W. Parkway and U.S. Route 1. Airport-operated parking garage facilities as well as economy lots are available adjacent or near the various airport terminals.
Abingdon Plantation Historical Site 
A part of the airport is located on the former site of the 18th and 19th century Abingdon plantation, which was associated with the prominent Alexander, Custis, Stuart, and Hunter families. In 1998, MWAA opened a historical display around the restored remnants of two Abingdon buildings and placed artifacts collected from the site in an exhibit hall in Terminal A. The Abingdon site is located on a knoll between parking Garage A and Garage B/C, near the south end of the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Metrorail station.[discuss]
Eastern Air Lines Flight 537 
On November 1, 1949, a mid-air collision between an Eastern Air Lines passenger aircraft and a P-38 Lightning military plane took the lives of 55 passengers. The sole survivor was the Bolivian ace pilot of the fighter plane, Erick Rios Bridoux.
Bridoux's plane had taken off from National just 10 minutes earlier and was in contact with the tower during a brief test flight. The Eastern Air Lines DC-4 was on approach from the south when the nimble and much faster P-38 banked and plunged right into the passenger plane. Both aircraft dropped into the Potomac River.
Air Florida Flight 90 
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 forty-nine minutes on a taxiway and taking off with ice and snow on the wings. The Boeing 737 aircraft failed to gain altitude. Less than 1 statute mile (1.6 km) from the end of the runway, the airplane struck the 14th Street Bridge complex, shearing the tops off vehicles stuck in traffic before plunging through the 1-inch-thick (25 mm) ice covering the Potomac River. Rescue responses were greatly hampered by the weather and traffic. Due to heroic action on the part of motorists, a United States Park Service police helicopter crew, and one of the plane's passengers who later perished, five occupants of the downed plane survived. The other 74 people who had been aboard died, as well as four occupants of vehicles on the bridge. President Reagan cited motorist Lenny Skutnik in his State of the Union Address a few weeks later.
- FAA Airport Master Record for DCA ( PDF)
- "Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) Air Traffic Statistics". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
- "History". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- Feaver, Douglas B. (July 16, 1997). "Years of Deal-Making Enabled Change From 'Disgrace' to Showplace". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
- "History of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- "Metropolitan Washington Airports Act of 1986", Public Law No. 99-500, Section 6001
- METROPOLITAN WASHINGTON AIRPORTS AUTHORITY v. CITIZENS FOR THE ABATEMENT OF AIRCRAFT NOISE, INC., 501 U.S. 252 (1991).
- This can be seen by Congress's continued use of legislation to control the amount of flights in and out of National Airport, as well as expanding the perimeter and number of exemptions for flights outside that limit.
- "Public Law No. 105-154, "To rename the Washington National Airport located in the District of Columbia and Virginia as the `Ronald Reagan National Airport'"". January 27, 1998.
- "It's Reagan Airport now". McCook Daily Gazette (Archived by Google News Archive). Associated Press. February 7, 1998.
- Alvarez, Lizette (February 4, 1998). "G.O.P. Tries to Wrap Up an Airport for Reagan". Unknown parameter
- "Congress Votes for Reagan Airport". Washington Post. February 5, 1998. p. A01. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
- "Hansen in road sign rage over lack of Reagan airport markers". Deseret News. June 7, 1998.
- Zachary M. Shrag (2006). The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro. JHU Press. p. 258.
- "Why you should NEVER fly into Washington National Airport". JetHead's Blog. 2011-12-24. Retrieved 2012-05-23.
- "Security-Restricted Airspace". Federal Aviation Administration. December 13, 2005. Retrieved July 15, 2009.
- "Washington National Airport P56 Avoidance Procedures". Federal Aviation Administration. Retrieved 2009-12-24.
- "Secretary Mineta Announces Beginning of Security Screening Program; BWI First to Deploy Federal Screening Personnel". Transportation Security Administration. 2002-04-24. Retrieved 2007-03-26.
- "TSA Suspends 30-Minute Rule for Reagan National Airport". Transportation Security Administration. 2005-07-14. Retrieved 2007-03-26.
- "TSA Opens Ronald Reagan Washington Airport to General Aviation Operations". Transportation Security Administration. 2005-10-18. Retrieved 2007-03-26.
- "Restoration of General Aviation at Washington Reagan National Airport". Transportation Security Administration. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- ""Uncontrolled airport" situation at Washington National". eTurboNews. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
- "Aircraft Noise Procedures and Guidelines at Reagan National Airport". Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Retrieved February 21, 2010.
- Garrison, Kevin (1993). Congested Airspace: A Pilot's Guide (Command Decisions Ser.). Riverside, Conn: Belvoir Publications. p. 157. ISBN 1-879620-13-8.
- Sipress, Alan (November 11, 1999). "More Flights Unlikely Now At National". The Washington Post. p. B1.
- Sipress, Alan (March 5, 1999). "3 Senators Gain From Airport Bill". The Washington Post (SunSentinel.com).
- "Washington, DC: Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA)". Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Retrieved 20 Oct 2012.
- Total cargo (Freight, Express, & Mail).
- Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (2011). "Directions to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)". Reagan National Airport. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
- Templeman, Eleanor Lee (1959). Arlington Heritage: Vignettes of a Virginia County. New York: Avenel Books, a division of Crown Publishers, Inc. pp. 12–13.
- Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (November 12, 1998). "Historic Site At Airport Open to Travelers And Public". Archived from the original on 2008-11-20. Retrieved 2008-03-04.
- Sipress, Alan (1998-11-11). "At National Airport, A Historic Destination". The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post Company). pp. B1, B7.
- "Parking Map". DCA Terminal Map. Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-16.
- Cressey, Pamela J. (2002). Walk and Bike the Alexandria Heritage Trail: A Guide to Exploring a Virginia Town's Hidden Past. Capital Books. pp. 16–17. ISBN 1-892123-89-4. Retrieved 2011-06-16.
- Coordinates of Abingdon Plantation historical site:
- "Planes Collide Near National Airport Killing 55; D.C. Loses Home Rule Advocate". Retrieved 2012-06-02.
- "We're Going Down, Larry". Time 119 (007): 21. February 15, 1982. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport|
- Official website
- Airport Map Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. June 2011
- (PDF), effective May 2, 2013
- FAA Terminal Procedures for DCA, effective May 2, 2013
- Resources for this airport: