(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) Ben’s Chili Bowl opened its second Arlington location at Reagan National Airport this morning with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
In the pre-security section of B/C terminal of the airport, a crowd gathered to hear the Chuck Brown Band, listen to speakers and watch the Ali family, which owns Ben’s, cut the ribbon on the new restaurant. The Ben’s Chili Bowl location in Rosslyn opened in March as the first standalone, brick-and-mortar Ben’s to open since the original in 1958.
“We have a lot of visitors to our original U Street location that come from all over the country, so now people who don’t have time can stop here on their way in or out of the city,” Virginia Ali, the widow of Ben’s founder Ben Ali, said. “It’s a very attractive location.”
Ben’s historian and former Marion Barry aid Bernard Demczuk was the MC of the opening, and handed out pamphlets detailing a history of Ben’s as well as instructions on how to “properly eat a Ben’s Chili Bowl Classic chili dog.” He spoke about the late “Godfather of Go-Go” Chuck Brown — who was a famous Ben’s customer along with Bill Cosby and President Barack Obama — before introducing the band.
He also remarked on Reagan’s number of annual visitors; according to the airport, more than 20 million passengers flew in and out of the airport last year.
“That’s pretty good traffic for Ben’s Chili Bowl,” Demczuk said.
Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board Member Warner Session spoke briefly after the band played its first set of songs. He said that MWAA is elated to have a Ben’s airport location.
“I live in the neighborhood and as you can see I’ve probably eaten one chili dog too many,” Session joked.
Kamal Ali was the last to speak before he and his family cut the ceremonial ribbon. Ali thanked the airport and the ceremony’s event planners, and also mentioned his late father.
“I know dad is looking down on us,” he said.
The band continued to play while Ben’s employees served their first customers, and those waiting in line to get their half-smokes and fries danced and clapped along. The band also promoted its new single and album “Beautiful Life,” which was released today.
Inside Ben’s, two flat-screen monitors played a slideshow of the Ali’s family pictures, pictures from other Ben’s locations and footage of the U street location’s appearance on the Travel Channel show “Man Versus Food.”
“They are going to do very well here, trust me,” one woman waiting in line said. “There’s going to be a line forever.”
DCA Runway to Move — The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has hired a contractor to fill in part of the Potomac River and move a runway at Reagan National Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration requires the improvements because the runway does not meet FAA safety standards. The project is scheduled to begin next week and continue through 2015. [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington Man Finishes Run for Boston Victims — Arlington resident Frank Fumich completed his run from the Pentagon to the Boston Marathon finish line on Saturday. Fumich and a running partner from Florida raised more than $78,000 for the Boston bombing victims during the four day, 450 mile journey. During the final 19 miles, they were joined by a woman who was unable to finish the race when the bombs exploded. She gave her Boston Marathon medal to Fumich. [Washington Post]
Orange Line has Most Metrorail Weekend Work — In a tally of the areas most affected by Metrorail weekend track work from May 1, 2012 through April 30, 2013, the Orange Line section from East Falls Church to West Falls Church ranks as number one. That portion registered 23 weekends of work. It has been closed 10 times and single tracked 13 times in the one year period due to work linking the Silver Line to the rest of the system. [Greater Greater Washington]
Flight Makes Emergency Landing at DCA — A US Airways Express flight had to make an emergency landing at Reagan National Airport this morning (Wednesday) due to a cracked windshield. The plane was minutes into its flight from DCA to Raleigh/Durham International Airport when it had to turn around. Nobody was injured. [WJLA]
Plastic Bag Tax Defeated — Sen. Adam Ebbin’s proposal to tax single-use plastic bags in grocery and convenience stores has been defeated in the state Senate. Had the bill passed, it would have imposed a five cent tax on every plastic bag distributed by retail establishments. [Sun Gazette]
Potomac CrossFit to Re-open in Courthouse — After closing last year to make way for a new development in Clarendon, Potomac Crossfit has found a new home. The new 9,000 square foot location will be located at 1320 N. Courthouse Road, Suite 100. It is expected to open in May. [Potomac CrossFit]
(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) The Arlington County Fire Department has cleared the scene at Reagan National Airport, where it had been assisting Airport Police with a suspicious package.
The bomb squad took x-rays of the package to determine its contents, but nothing dangerous was found.
The package turned up near the economy parking lot, and that lot closed down during the investigation. Most other airport roads and lots remained open, and no flights or terminal operations were affected. There were also no reported traffic backups due to the lot closure.
According to a recording of air traffic control radio, the pilot of the 737 reported a left engine failure as a result of the bird strike. The plane landed safely at Dulles just before 8:00 a.m.
The bird strike caused a bit of a scare on the ground. D.C. Fire and EMS crews near the Potomac River were put on alert after reports came in of an aircraft in distress. The situation recalled the 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson” — when pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed a US Airways jet on the Hudson River after both engines were disabled by a flock of birds.
Bird strikes are actually not uncommon at Reagan National.
Despite the use of systems designed to scare birds away from the runways and alert air traffic controllers to their presence, a total of 24 bird-related incidents were reported at Reagan National last year, according to an FAA database. Of those incidents, 21 were reported as birds striking an aircraft and 3 were birds simply found injured on or near runways. Five incidents involved large birds, which are more likely to cause damage to an aircraft fuselage or engine.
Among the incidents:
- On May 1, 2010, a US Airways 737 ingested a large vulture into its #1 engine on approach. No damage was reported and the plane landed safely.
- On July 28, a United Airlines Airbus 319 struck a large bird on takeoff. The flight continued on to Chicago, where bird remains were then cleaned off the plane’s nose. No damage was reported.
- On August 8, a regional jet struck a large osprey on takeoff. Minor damage to the landing gear door was reported, but the plane continued on to Albany, N.Y.
- On October 7, an injured bald eagle was found near a runway. Crews retrieved the bird and brought it to an animal hospital. No bird strike was reported.
No more flights will be leaving from or arriving at Reagan National airport tonight, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority. All airlines have canceled flights for Saturday. MWAA says that crews will still be working to keep the runways clear tomorrow, so that flights could possibly resume on Sunday.