What do you know about DCA National?

Sep 19th, 2001, 06:25 AM
Posts: n/a
What do you know about DCA National?

I have a USAIR flight out of DCA in a month. USAir claims DCA will be up and running soon, but news reports say useage will be very limited, even when it does open. May be limited to take off/landing from the south (to avoid overflight of Pentagon, CIA, etc.), but windshear problems on south are always troubling.

Aside from what may happen to USAir in the next month, I'm wondering what people know or think about DCA's future. How long do you think it would be before it's open? How can they possibly make it a secure airport, situated where it is?

(My own prejudice is that the short-haul flights around the east coast should eventually be replaced by Amtrak, leaving Dulles and BWI to take the long-haul air traffic, but that will never happen so long as Congress and the airlines think convenience outweighs safety.)
Sep 19th, 2001, 06:48 AM
martha python
Posts: n/a
It's worth remembering that the flight that hit the Pentagon took off from Dulles and that flights from other cities used to fly over DC airspace. Lately it seems as though we only have helicopters, but that may just be my perception.
If I were betting on this, I would bet that National will reopen, but with restrictions on the size of jets that use it and the distance they travel (so they have less fuel). Given the time it takes to check in these days, I think your speculation about replacing short-haul flights with Amtrak may be right, less because of any sort of official policy than because a train trip will be faster, door to door, than a shuttle flight. But I doubt they'll be building rail capacity to meet all the need for East Coast travel. If you want to get to Buffalo, you'll still be on a plane.
Sep 19th, 2001, 06:49 AM
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My suggestion is you learm a great deal more about our wonderful new, $1 billion airport that includes the work of 30 artists. To believe that Amtrak could substitute suggests some misunderstandings. There is no windshear problem associated with a southern departure down river over Alexandria. The actual issue is tail winds, regardless of departure direction. Airline mfrs. advise that a tail wind greater than 10 MPH presents a danger. Before September 11, we could vary the departure according to the wind direction and force. It is a fact that landings from the south, a long, straight approach up river, are much safer than a southerly landing with a sharp turn at the 14th Street Bridge. Any pilot will confirm that. National will reopen, despite idiotic suggestions it assume Andrew's role ... a 6,000 foot runway handling AF 26000, F-16's and 15's ... I laugh and tell you I think not. Stay tuned ... one day, National will reopen to its past glory, and the rehab of the old building from FDR's time will be complete. And Congress can then return to the ongoing issue of making DC rename the airport subway stop Reagan Nation vice National ... the kind of issue whose reemergence will alert us that the world may be glimpsing normalcy after a long nightmare period. When you arrive in DC, if National is open, take the airport tour ... quite splendid ... and grab yourself a copy of the Flyer magazine. Welcome to DC, and of course, to DCA. Ciao
Sep 19th, 2001, 07:40 AM
Posts: n/a
I lived for 13 years just a couple of miles from DCA and I never, ever thought it was in a great place. And having the work of several artists is an inane reason to decide whether it should be re-opened or not.

I think the money should definitely have been spent on Amtrak, for all kinds of reasons, including flexibility, efficiency, reliability (fog? rain? eh!), economy, and not the least security. The northeast corridor is the part of our country that -- from the point of view of population density and mobility -- most resembles Europe, and the European rail system is a marvel for its ability to keep people moving quickly and efficiently.

I have no doubt that L's favorite municipal playground will reopen for the same reasons Marie cites, but it very naive and romantic, indeed, to think air travel is the way to go no matter what the route, ignoring the highly pragmatic needs that a functioning rail system should be meeting.
Sep 19th, 2001, 08:13 AM
Posts: n/a
Okay, Jackson, I'll try not to be irate. At least you've identified yourself as a National Airport foe. We have many in DC, but thankfully only a tiny minority. I live under the flight path too, and have for many, many years. National is no playground. And I've used the NE rail corridor, DC-NY-Boston, for 30 years, constantly. I know Amtrak inside and out. The question is, do you? They are not reliable ... they receive an annual subsidy ... they've cut services in major ways over the years ... the tracks are unsafe ... they never break even ... and now they must, or Congress has said they will be cut off from the treasury. The food and cars ... well cattle car comes to mind. National in its new form has been rated as one of the top airports to get travellers in and out quickly. There are 30 major artists whose work is a part of the airport ... inane, you say ... I think not, Jackson. Your message sort of reminds me of my sister from NYC ... she flew into the new National and proclaimed it ugly ... ugly? My response, of course ... LaGuardia, Newark and JFK. I wish I could be that fast and accurate everytime some jackass ridicules a world-class object. National is truly wonderful ... I hope you may all have the joy of making a landing there sometime. Welcome to DC, and of course, DCA. Ciao
Sep 19th, 2001, 08:38 AM
Posts: n/a
I live and work in DC and love National Airport and have used it a lot and much prefer it over Dulles and BWI.

The problem is that a plane taking off from National can hit the White House in 20 seconds and can hit the Capitol in 30 seconds. This fact has been stated in public briefings to federal workers following last Tuesday's attacks and was reiterated by Vice President Dick Cheney in his interview with Tim Russert Sunday on Meet the Press. This is not even to mention the risk to the State Department, CIA, FBI, Pentagon, etc.

Unless a commitment is made to have permanent military air protection flying over the District at all times (as is currently the case, which is reportedly temporary), I am opposed to National being reopened. I never thought I would say that, because I love National Airport. But here's the thing: if 2 planes had taken off last Tuesday from National Airport and crashed into the Capitol Building and the White House, killing the President, Vice President, and most members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, disabling the federal government, no one would even be CONSIDERING reopening National Airport. And it absolutely could have happened. If they can hit the Pentagon, they can hit anything.

I say forget it. I am not even sure that having permanent military protection of the airspace over the District would be enough to persuade me that National should be reopened. As much as I hate the inconvenience of getting to Dulles and BWI, and recognize the heavy economic ramifications that closing National would cause, those prices, while significant, are nevertheless a small price to pay compared to the losses that we would suffer in a direct attack on the Executive and Legislative branches of our government.

By the way, I also love Amtrak and have used it frequently for travel to New York. But I'm not convinced that it's safe from these types of attacks either. Anyone can board a train carrying anything in their luggage, because there is no security screening whatsoever. What is to stop someone from boarding a train with explosives in their luggage and heading for Penn Station?
Sep 19th, 2001, 08:43 AM
Posts: n/a
So we beef up security. It's very doable, at least at the major stations.
Sep 19th, 2001, 08:59 AM
Posts: n/a
L, of course I know Amtrak "inside and out." I know it from lots of travel up and down the East, and also beyond -- Chicago, Florida, etc.

Your arguments that it's in crappy shape therefore we should forget it make no sense. It's in crappy shape because we let it get that way, particularly by insisting it pay for itself, unrealistic given its handicaps. Among other things, changing the system so that freight trains always have right-of-way over passenger traffic guarantees that no timetable will be reliable.

Once we did that, Amtrak couldn't compete with the PERCEPTION -- not always anywhere near reality -- that door-to-door travel time Boston-New York-Phila.-Washington was always less by plane than by train.

For another, in what amounts to a utility that must use one set of rails, at least in this corridor, it's not reasonable to try to treat it like traditional privatized "commodity." The "competition" model doesn't apply, because the "competition" is another mode, altogether, of transport -- air -- which is, in fact, substantially subsidized in effect by taxes (who paid for DCA's renovation?) and in practice by the ability of businesses to deduct an unlimited amount of expenditure for premium-level air travel.

If it's in crappy shape but offers a very valuable service, FIX IT.

But just for the record, keep your shirt on and don't both to be "irate." (Don't you have something else to get "irate" about?) I'm not a "foe" of DCA, never went on a crusade to close it, wouldn't have considered doing that -- fruitless exercise anyway. Sure, when I lived in Alex., it was enormously convenient, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

But what I did say is that I always thought the location was problematic: everytime I looked out the window on final approach from the north and saw the White House on one side and the CIA and the Pentagon on the other. Since my job took me into all three, it always gave me the willies.

What I'm doing here is raising issues that weren't so compelling before last week and also saying it's time to consider re-arranging the distribution of our eggs with respect to the various baskets.
Sep 19th, 2001, 10:01 AM
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May I refer you to page A21 of today's Post, and some additional information about the closing of DCA, and the devastating impact it is incurring. Just for the record, I am NOT suggesting we forget Amtrak. I AM suggesting that Congress has grown tired of subsidizing it ... it is Congress who has has told Amtrak to make a profit in two years (I believe that's the deadline). It has not been neglected ... it receives a major Federal payment annually. It is unable to breakeven at 100% occupany. It is reasonably reliable in terms of time ... that is not the problem. It runs fewer trains now than 20 years ago. Its only hope might be full nationalization, but do we really want that? The train service has been promoted endlessly in DC ... newspapers have compared it to air travel, and found it attractive. What more do you expect? Closing DCA because of security issues ... well, we need to take care of those, don't we. Abandon DCA ... why in the world would we wish to do that. We have the technology to prevent airliners from being crashed into the White House and Capitol. Supposedly the WH had already implmented that ... or so we were told years ago by the local media. What occurred on 9/11/01 ... no word so far. I am happy that Jackson and others will have no say whatsoever in what happens to DCA ... and I know it will be reopened, and safety will be taken care of. To think Dulles and BWI can take care of DC's needs is not realistic. People are once again moving back into the city ... they do not want the congestion that the move west entailed. People who live here deserve a world-class in-town airport ... and isn't it a happy coincidence we happen to have such a creature right here, astride the Potomac, and almost ready to be reopened. If we should shower attention on trains, surely we can do no less for planes. DCA will open ... it's only a question of when. Hopefully Garvey/FAA will move quicker than usual on this issue. She says she will examine a phased-in approach. Get moving, Jane. Ciao
Sep 19th, 2001, 10:51 AM
Posts: n/a
I too live near DCA. I vote to re-open it. I would suggest that every jet that arrives/leaves this airport be manned by an armed Air Marshall. We should also increase rail service, but we should have done that years ago. DCA is part of the fabric of this city, we can't just discard it. Security issues need to be addressed at all airports, not just this one.

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