Reagan National Airport, closed since the terror attacks on the United States three weeks ago, will reopen Thursday under tight security, President Bush announced yesterday.
"There really is no greater symbol that America's back in business than the reopening of this airport," Mr. Bush said from the terminal of the airport, which sits close to the White House and other national landmarks.
Bush had been urged by members of Congress and local officials to reopen the airport, one of the nation's busiest and the last one to remain closed after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Bush did not give details on the heightened security. But other officials said that flights would be limited, flight patterns varied, and armed flight marshals stationed on all planes using the airport.
The airport is to reopen with shuttle flights to New York's LaGuardia Airport and Boston, according to Matt Raymond, a spokesman for Sen. George Allen (R) of Virginia.
"We can assure the American public as best we can that we've taken the necessary safety precautions," Bush said. "Now, it's time to start flying again."
The airport's flight paths bring planes close to the White House, the Capitol, and the Pentagon. The Washington Monument loomed in the near distance behind Bush as he spoke.
Under the new rules, a month of limited service will include routes to Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, Newark, and Pittsburgh. Then additional cities will be added, and the airport will be operating most of its pre-Sept. 11 routes.
Planes can fly in and out of the airport only from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the 737 - Boeing's smallest jetliner - will be the largest plane allowed.
Restrictions on air traffic will include a temporary prohibition against flight patterns that follow the Potomac River near the White House, Capitol, Pentagon, and CIA.
All passengers will have to go through two security checkpoints, show identification twice, and be limited to one carry-on bag. There also will be expanded identification checks for airport employees and flight crews, and expanded police and K-9 patrols. Air marshals will be on board all flights.
Virginia lawmakers have urged the White House to reopen the airport, which is a major source of jobs in the Washington area. It is also favored by lawmakers returning to their districts each weekend.