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IN THE NEWS - October 6, 2001: Reagan National Airport Re-opens - 2001-10-07

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

Reagan National Airport near Washington, D-C, re-opened Thursday with a limited number of flights. It was the last major American airport to re-open after the September Eleventh terrorist attacks in the United States. President Bush announced the decision Tuesday. He told reporters there was no greater sign that America is back in business than the re-opening of National Airport.

On September Eleventh, four hijacked American passenger planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon near Washington and an area in Pennsylvania. All airports in the United States were closed the day of the attack.

Stronger security measures have been established at all American airports to protect against possible terrorist attacks in the future. The new restrictions at Reagan National Airport are said to be the strongest security measures of any airport in the United States.

For example, armed federal guards will be on flights to and from the airport. Passengers will be questioned or searched at least two times before getting on their flights. The number of things they may carry onto planes also has been limited. Special new X-ray machines will examine all objects belonging to passengers before they are placed on the planes. Stronger security measures also will affect all airport workers.

Flight paths into and out of the Washington area are also changing. More air space over the nation’s capital is expected to close.

The stronger security measures follow a recent debate within the Bush Administration about the future of Reagan National Airport. The airport is considered to be very important for the nation’s travel industry. Yet, it is located less than one minute by air from the White House, Capitol, Pentagon and other important government buildings. President Bush settled the issue by approving a plan to slowly bring National Airport back to use under heavy restrictions.

The re-opening of the airport will happen in two steps. During the first step, six of the sixteen airlines that serve the airport will be permitted to fly to eight American cities. After several weeks, direct flights to ten other cities will be permitted. Four-hundred-fifty flights are expected to fly into and out of National Airport each day. This is about fifty-seven percent of the total number of daily flights before September Eleventh.

About forty-two-thousand passengers a day used Reagan National Airport last year. The airport employs more then ten-thousand people. Airport officials estimate the airport provides more than two-thousand-million dollars a year for the Washington area economy. Robert Grow is the Transportation Director for the Greater Washington Board of Trade. He says that re-opening Reagan National Airport will greatly improve the city’s economy.

This VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS, was written by Jill Moss. This is Steve Ember.