Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
|Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport|
|Owner||Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority|
|Operator||Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority|
|Serves||Washington metropolitan area|
|Location||Arlington County, Virginia|
|Opened||June 16, 1941|
|Hub for||American Airlines|
|Elevation AMSL||15 ft / 5 m|
FAA airport diagram
Source: Federal Aviation Administration
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (IATA: DCA, ICAO: KDCA, FAA LID: DCA) is an international airport 3 miles (5 km) south of downtown Washington, D.C. in Arlington County, Virginia, United States. It is the nearest commercial airport to the capital and serves the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area. For decades it was called Washington National Airport before being renamed to honor President Ronald Reagan in 1998. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) operates the airport with close oversight by the federal government due to its proximity to the national capital.
Reagan National is a hub for American Airlines, which is Reagan National's largest carrier. American Airlines also has near-hourly air shuttle flights to New York LaGuardia Airport and Logan International Airport in Boston. Delta Air Lines also operates near-hourly air shuttle flights to New York LaGuardia Airport, which are all operated by Delta Shuttle.
Other than the current 40 slot exemptions, flights into and out of the airport are not allowed to exceed 1,250 statute miles (2,000 km) in any direction nonstop, in an effort to send air traffic to the larger but more distant Washington Dulles International Airport. In the 12 months ending March 2015, the airport served 21,195,775 passengers.
Reagan National has United States immigration and customs facilities only for business jet traffic; the only scheduled international flights allowed to land at the airport are those from airports with U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance facilities. Other international passenger flights must use Washington Dulles International Airport or Baltimore–Washington International Airport.
- 1 History
- 2 Operations
- 3 Terminals
- 4 Airlines and destinations
- 5 Statistics
- 6 Ground transportation
- 7 Abingdon Plantation Historical Site
- 8 Accidents and incidents
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Near the present site of the Pentagon, Hoover Field was the first airport that had a major terminal, which opened its doors in 1926. The facility's single runway was crossed by a 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 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 inadequate.
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 Metro-rail 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 River.
The airport opened June 16, 1941, just before US involvement into World War II. Public were entertained by displays of wartime equipment including a captured Japanese Zero war prize flown in with U.S. Navy colors. In 1945 Congress passed a law that established the airport was legally within Virginia but under the jurisdiction of the federal government. On July 1 of that year, the airport's weather station became the official point for the weather observations and records by the National Weather Service, which is located in Washington, D.C.
The April 1957 Official Airline Guide shows 316 weekday departures: 95 Eastern (plus six 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. Jet flights began in April 1966 (727-200s were not allowed until 1970).
The grooving of runway 18-36 in March 1967 was a first for a civil airport in the USA. 
The runway layout 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 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, 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 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, the 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, state, regional, and federal authorities were later required to change highway and transit signs at their own additional expense as new signs were made.
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 Interim Terminal closed immediately after its opening and was converted back into a hangar. One pier of the main terminal (now widely known as Terminal A), which mainly housed American Airlines and Pan Am, was demolished; the other pier, originally designed by Giuliani Associates Architects for Northwest/TWA remains operational today as gates 1–9.
Until 1999, Runways 1/19 and 4/22 were 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, 2001 attacks, the 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 turn just before landing. This approach is known as the River Visual. Similarly, flights taking off to the north are required to climb quickly and turn left to avoid the Washington Monument or the White House.
After the attacks, the airport was closed for several weeks, and security was tightened 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 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 landed unassisted.
The "River Visual" approach
Reagan National Airport has some of the strictest noise restrictions in the country. Pilots are required to use the "River Visual" approach (used for runway 19), which follows 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 on the left side of an airplane can see the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the World War II Memorial, Georgetown University, the National Mall, and the White House. Passengers 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 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 within FAA limitations for most airline jets.
Reagan National Airport is subject to a federally mandated perimeter limitation and may not accommodate nonstop flights to or from cities beyond 1,250-statute-mile (2,010 km), 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. The current exemptions are:
|Alaska Airlines||8 slots operating as 2x Seattle/Tacoma, 1x Los Angeles, 1x Portland (OR)|
|American Airlines||12 slots operating as 2x Los Angeles, 3x Phoenix–Sky Harbor, 1x Las Vegas|
|Delta Air Lines||4 slots operating as 2x Salt Lake City (swapping 2 slots for 1x Los Angeles on April 24, 2017.)|
|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|
|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) 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. In the end the restriction was not lifted, but the FAA was permitted to add additional exemptions, which went not to America West but to competitor Alaska Airlines. America West (now American Airlines) later gained additional exemptions for non-stop flights to Phoenix in 2004.
Originally the airport had no perimeter rule; from 1954 to 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–Saint 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 opened in 1941 and was expanded in 1955 to accommodate more passengers and airlines. The exterior of this terminal has had its original architecture restored, with the airside facade restored in 2004 and the landside facade restored in 2008. The terminal underwent a $37 million renovation that modernized the airport’s look by bringing in brighter lighting, more windows and new flooring. The project was completed in 2014 along with a new expanded TSA security checkpoint. In 2014, additional renovations were announced including new upgraded concessions and further structural improvements, the project was completed in 2015. Terminal A contains gates 1-9. Terminal A houses Air Canada Express, Frontier Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Sun Country Airlines.
Terminals B and C
Terminals B and C are the airport's newest and largest terminals; the terminals opened in 1997 and replaced a collection of airline-specific terminals built during the 1960s. The new terminals were designed by architect Cesar Pelli and house 35 gates. Both terminals share the same structure and are directly connected to the WMATA airport station via indoor pedestrian bridges. Terminal B and C have three concourses, Terminal B with gates 10-22, Terminal B/C gates 23-34 and Terminal C gates 35-45. Terminal B houses Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, American Airlines Shuttle, Delta, JetBlue and United. Terminal C houses American Airlines, American Airlines Shuttle and Virgin America.
The corridor/hall connecting the three concourses of Terminal B and C is known as National Hall.
North Concourse and Secure National Hall Project
MWAA has announced a new north concourse to Terminal B and C to accommodate 14 new regional jet gates, connected to the new concourse by jetways. This will replace a regional aircraft operation conducted on the ramp, outside.
MWAA is also planning a new "Secure National Hall" project. Currently, National Hall is before security, with a separate security screening area for each of the three concourses. Since Terminal B and C were designed pre-9/11, the security screening areas are cramped and congested. Further, passengers cannot access the concessions and restaurants of National Hall after they go through security, and going from one concourse to another requires re-screening, or, in certain situations, taking a bus between concourses.
MWAA will build two new screening areas that will place all of National Hall (and the concourses connected by National Hall, including the new regional jet terminal) after security. This will allow passengers to easily connect between all the existing and future gates of Terminal B and C, and to access many more concessions after passing through security.
Airlines and destinations
In 2013, Reagan National Airport handled 20,415,085 passengers, which was a new record. From April 2014 to March 2015, the airport handled 21,195,775 passengers, which is slightly higher than the aforementioned record. American Airlines, following its merger with US Airways, has the largest share of traffic at the airport, accounting for 50.4% of the market share as of June 2015[update]. Delta Air Lines, the second largest, accounts for 14.0%, with Southwest in third at 13.0%.
|1||Atlanta, Georgia||898,000||American, Delta, Southwest|
|2||Boston, Massachusetts||741,000||American, JetBlue|
|3||Chicago–O'Hare, Illinois||737,000||American, United|
|4||Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas||473,000||American|
|6||Orlando, Florida||430,000||American, JetBlue, Southwest|
|7||New York–LaGuardia, New York||357,000||American, Delta|
|8||Charlotte, North Carolina||332,000||American|
|9||Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota||327,000||American, Delta, Sun Country|
|10||Fort Lauderdale, Florida||291,000||American, Southwest, JetBlue|
|3||Delta Air Lines||269,755||13.1%|
The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport 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 services provide access to Terminal A.
Metrobus provides service on weekend mornings before the Metro station opens or during any disruptions to regular Metro 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.
Shared-ride shuttle services are available from several providers including SuperShuttle, Limos 4 Less 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 the airport, and is also accessible by the G.W. Parkway and U.S. Route 1. Airport-operated parking garage facilities as well as economy lots are available adjacent to or near the various airport terminals.
Pedestrian and bicycle
The airport is accessible by bicycle and foot from the Mt. Vernon Trail, as well as the sidewalk along the Airport Viaduct (State Route 233), which connects the airport grounds to U.S. Route 1. A total of 48 bike parking spots are available across six separate bike racks. The Airport is planning to have a Capital Bikeshare station installed sometime in 2016.
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.
Accidents and incidents
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.
Capital Airlines Flight 500
On December 12, 1949, Capital Airlines Flight 500, a Douglas DC-3, stalled and crashed into the Potomac River while on approach to National. Six of the 23 passengers and crew on board were killed.
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 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 were 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.
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- This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.
Media related to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport at Wikimedia Commons
- Official website
- Airport Map Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. June 2011
- (PDF), effective April 27, 2017
- FAA Terminal Procedures for DCA, effective April 27, 2017
- Resources for this airport: