Bill May Allow More Long-Haul Flights at Reagan National

by ARLnow.com July 7, 2010 at 9:11 am 2,766 17 Comments

A bill now before congress contains a provision, inserted at the behest of Western lawmakers like Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), that would allow for regular non-stop flights from Reagan National Airport to cities like Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Currently, federal regulations ban most flights beyond a 1,250 mile perimeter. The rule is meant to protect local communities from the noise and air pollution produced by the larger planes needed for cross-country flight.

The Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority, Virgina Senators Webb and Warner, and local community groups have come out against the proposed rule change, the Washington Post reports.

  • Mike

    I guess it’s not enough for Pelosi to waste taxpayer money by using government jets out of Andrews. Now she wants her air chauffeur service to run out of Reagan.


    Send ’em to Dulles? FREDTERP

  • JR

    ah – you can already fly non-stop to phoenix from National. beyond that – with new technology – like Boeing’s new 787 and even the new 737 – we can have longer distance flights without any concern for additional noise or pollution. the reality is, though, restrictions like this are really about supporting Dulles, not protecting the community. i’m ready for more non-stops to the west coast.

    • Mike

      Reminds me of the ending of a Simposns episode where planes got re-routed.

      Bart: At last, those planes are flying where they belong.
      Homer: That’s right, over the homes of poor people.

  • Courthouse Resident

    For the record I live in Arlington in Courthouse – and I support swapping some inside-the-perimeter flights for some that reach the west coast. This would NOT bring in larger aircraft. Currently the largest aircraft serving DCA would be the 757 and the A-321 – both similar in size. And flights from DCA to PHX ALREADY exist using this size aircraft and smaller size aircraft (A-320, 737). If you live in Arlington and you would rather drive to and pay for parking at IAD or BWI to make a west coast flight instead of taking a cab or metro to DCA then you must have money to burn.

    • What the rule is *meant* to do and what it actually does may be two different things. I’m not an aviation expert so maybe someone else can answer this: could there be a difference in the noise and pollution from two identical aircraft taking off for different destinations? Don’t long-haul flights need to carry more fuel, making them heavier at takeoff?

      • Courthouse Resident

        The older aircraft like MD-82/83 that AA uses out of DCA (I believe) tend to be louder I believe than the more modern 319/320/321 or newer 737. It can also depend on the engine the airline has installed on the aircraft.

        It is true though that an aircraft loaded with more fuel would require more thrust to takeoff – in the end I think that really only affects those living directly near the airport.

        This could just be me – but all my life I’ve lived with aircraft noise. Most of it was growing up in the crash zone of Oceana NAS in Virginia Beach. I also worked at both IAD and DCA for a number of years. So the noise doesn’t seem to bother me much.

        One thing the flight crew can perform (regardless of destination) is called noise-abatement take-offs. I’ve been on one DCA departure before where the flight crew informed the passengers that they would be performing this style takeoff.
        Here are some links with more info on those.

        I do agree with JR that this seems more about supporting Dulles. But I think having more options at each airport serving the DC area would produce positive results for anyone trying to depart or arrive in the area.

    • JennP

      I think there is some restriction on the size of aircraft that can land at National, due to logistics mostly. My father is a flight instructor for the Airbus A330 and I am fairly certain he has mentioned this aircraft, and a few others, are too big to land there. If this is correct, I would assume that for the most part, the size of aircraft would not change much. …But I could be wrong, I dont work for the airlines.

      • Courthouse Resident

        @JennP – this is true. While it’s possible you could have a larger wide-body arrive/depart from DCA, it’s riskier as the runway is much shorter than Dulles and additionally most larger aircraft have palette load cargo – which the airlines serving DCA do not have. The airport also just wasn’t built to handle larger aircraft at the gates/alleys. That was left for IAD to handle.

        There was an incident about 10/11 years ago where a United DC-10 made an emergency landing at DCA. (The flight was meant for BWI) however weather at both IAD and BWI forced the pilots to make a decision to land at DCA. All passengers had to deplane and were bussed to BWI (if they wanted to be). The baggage couldn’t be unloaded because they were on palettes and it took some work to get FAA clearance to takeoff again from DCA.

  • Let’s Be Free

    I thought that the modern, large aircraft were more fuel efficient (per passenger) and quieter than the old aircraft designs, like the 737. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  • I much prefer keeping the perimeter rules in place, but for a different reason: a greater frequency of short-haul flights.

    Right now, I can fly to Atlanta on the hour, New York on the hour or half-hour (though this might be less necessary now because of Acela), Boston almost ten times a day, and a host of other east coast and midwest cities on the hour or two-hour mark. This makes DCA a perfect east coast commuter airport.

    If some of these slots are reallocated to the west coast, there won’t be as many east coast flights. It’s the shorter-haul routes that really benefit from frequent, direct service. When you’re already spending 6+ hours flying across the country, adding 30 minutes to drive to Dulles or 60 minutes to connect in another hub isn’t that onerous. But it adds a lot of inconvenience to shorter flights that only take an hour or two.

    • MB

      I’m a big fan of National for that reason (among others), but I really don’t think this will really involve that many slot changes.

  • Katie

    Hm, I’ve been looking into flights to Seattle, and Alaska Airlines flies non-stop DCA-SEA.

  • Joey has some good points especially when you factor in ticket costs possibly being lower for short-haul flights due to an oversupply. All in all however, I don’t see why this is a big deal one way or the other.

  • Thes

    From Wikipedia (where you can find the citation): A large-scale statistical analysis of the health effects of aircraft noise was undertaken in the late 2000s by Bernhard Greiser for the Umweltbundesamt, Germany’s central environmental office. The health data of over one million residents around the Cologne airport were analysed for statistical health effects correlating with aircraft noise. The results where then corrected for other noise influences in the residential areas, and for socioeconomic factors, to reduce possible skewing of the data. The study concluded that aircraft noise clearly and significantly impairs health, with, for example, a day-time average sound pressure level of 60 decibel increasing coronary heart disease by 61% in men and 80% in women. As another indicator, a night-time average sound pressure level of 55 decibel increased the risk of heart attacks by 66% in men and 139% in women. Statistically significant health effects did however start as early as from an average sound pressure level of 40 decibel.

    • Mike

      Let the green whackos take the new Silver line out to IAD.

  • MC

    I’m all for competition, but it makes little sense for oddities like Alaska Air to be at National. National is not a hub, so point to point flights should only happen when they are regular and have the traffic to support them. How many Washingtonians need to fly direct to Phoenix? Very few, but McCain pushes this because US Air decided to move their headquarters from Arlington to Phoenix, but still see DC as a money tree, We need less US Air at National, not more. I’d like to see fewer flights at National — it is too crowded, and really shouldn’t be located in such a confined urban area at all. I’d like to see all planes at National limited to less than 50 seats.


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