Reagan National reopens to GA

Washington National Airport (DCA) will reopen to GA, but only for “certain precleared” operations, according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials.

The Washington, D.C. airport was closed to GA after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Congress mandated that DHS develop a security plan to permit GA operations at DCA as part of the 2003 Vision 100-Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act.

“Increased access and enhanced security are key elements of our strategy for Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport,” said David M. Stone, assistant secretary of homeland security for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). “It is critical that we know who is on board and that we have confidence that they will not attempt a hostile act with the aircraft.  We’re taking extensive security precautions and requiring aircraft operators and passengers to comply with strict procedures to mitigate that risk.”

The TSA’s DCA Access Standard Security Program allows access for only 48 GA flights into DCA each day. Before the terrorist attacks, there were about 660 GA operations each week at DCA, according to TSA officials.

TSA’s new security measures for DCA include:

– Advanced registration and qualification of operators and crews;

– TSA inspection of crew and passengers;

– TSA inspection of property and aircraft;

– Identification checks of passengers by TSA;

– Submission of passenger and crew manifests 24 hours in advance of a flight;

– Enhanced background checks for all passengers and criminal history checks for flight crews;

– An armed law enforcement officer on board each flight, authorized to use force; and

– GA flights to DCA can only originate from 12 “gateway” airports: Seattle-Tacoma; Boston Logan; Houston Hobby; White Plains, N.Y.; LaGuardia; Chicago Midway; Minneapolis/St. Paul; West Palm Beach, Fla.; San Francisco; Teterboro Airport, N.J.; Philadelphia; and Lexington, Ky.

TSA officials also note that GA operations at DCA are subject to cancellation at any time and will cease when the threat level reaches orange or red in the Washington, D.C., area or in the vicinity of any of the 12 gateway airports.

After publication of an interim final rule, which will be released shortly, implementation and training will begin, TSA officials said. GA flights are expected to resume approximately 90 days after publication of the rule.

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