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Debate Looming On Closing DCA Permanently  
User currently offlineAlpha 1 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 1119 times:

According to ABC News, there is a debate beginning on whether to ever open Washington National Airport ever again, in light of the terrorists attacks this week.

Overreaction, or a sober appraisal of the new reality?

22 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineDesertJets From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 7760 posts, RR: 16
Reply 1, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 1031 times:

I think this time may be it for National... there has been increasing pressure from groups in Northern Virginia and various government groups (DoD et al) to restrict flights from National. Most Northern Virginian politicians have been adamantly opposed to opening DCA to more flights. This may in fact be the final nail in the coffin.


Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
User currently offlineFlashmeister From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 2900 posts, RR: 6
Reply 2, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 989 times:
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I think that it should be closed. It's an unfortunate thing, but we have been introduced to a new world of terrorism.

As such, having DCA be so convienient and so spectacular to spot at is also a huge security concern, and unfortunately, that's more important than our convienience or our hobbies.


User currently offlineZrb2 From United States of America, joined May 2000, 895 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 948 times:

Keep it open. The perpetrators of this weeks crimes came through BOS, IAD and EWR, not National. I don't think the proximity of the airport has anything to do with the likelihood that terrorists will emerge from there.
They can secure the place like a fortress and ban carry on's for all i care but Keep it open!


User currently offlineD L X From United States of America, joined May 1999, 11211 posts, RR: 52
Reply 4, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 934 times:

"I don't think the proximity of the airport has anything to do with the likelihood that terrorists will emerge from there. "

They don't have to emerge from DCA. They just have to look like they're landing at DCA, and bail out of the flight path on final to hit the Pentagon. Or, on takeoff, they can take a bee line to any of the many landmarks on The Mall.

And, it doesn't even take a terrorist act to put these buildings at risk. Remember just how far away the Air Florida jet came to smashing the Pentagon? No terrorists involved there.



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User currently offlineArchitect From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 21 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 906 times:

I think that both of the flights heading towards Washington were told (by the terrorists) to divert to DCA (note they were both 757s - the largest aircraft to normally operate at DCA). That said, I doubt a plane taking off from Dulles or BWI could be stopped before hitting something in DC.

If it is shut down it would be quite a shame with the loss of convenient air travel from the district and the loss of a brand new terminal building. Oh yeah, USAirways would be pretty much dead.


User currently offlineJaysit From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 895 times:

"They" would not be an issue if security all over the US and at National were beefed up. It is ridiculous for us to cow down to these threats. We just have to develop ways to combat them, and maintain the grace of our day to day lives.

DCA is a wonderful airport and adds to the charm and wonder of Washington DC.

What next? Shut down Logan because its close to historic Boston? Shut down San Diego because its in the heart of the city? There would be no end to this nonsense.


User currently offlineD L X From United States of America, joined May 1999, 11211 posts, RR: 52
Reply 7, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 878 times:

Re closing DCA: "Oh yeah, USAirways would be pretty much dead." Or, they would just move to BWI and IAD like everyone else...

"What next? Shut down Logan because its close to historic Boston? Shut down San Diego because its in the heart of the city? There would be no end to this nonsense."

Well, Logan and San Diego have much different situations. Logan's runways are MUCH further away from the houses of government and finance than DCA's are. Think about this: at DCA, there are runways that line up with important buildings, and the flight plans artificially send planes out of the way. I don't know as much about the situation at SAN, but there are two important differences that I do know. First, the big military installation near SAN is a monstrous, ARMED naval base. I think they can defend themselves. (The Pentagon's defense is its hard shell and flat building.) Second, there are no nationally important govermental or financial bodies housed anywhere near SAN. The comparisons don't hold water.



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User currently offlineZrb2 From United States of America, joined May 2000, 895 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 838 times:

I still don't get it DLX?! Why is it more likely that a terrorist can board a plane at DCA? It's obvious they can do plenty of damage IF THEY DO board at DCA but the likelihood is no more than any other U.S. airport (it probably will be more difficult to get through security at DCA if it ever does reopen) Your Air Florida reference involves a plane crash accident and I think it's the only major accident ever at DCA. If you're worried about a plane going down for any reason there are probably 100 US airports where runways are directly in the path of Major congested areas.
It sounds to me like you just plain don't like the fact that DCA is located so close to goverment buildings.


User currently offlineBoeingfan From United States of America, joined Aug 2001, 385 posts, RR: 1
Reply 9, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 823 times:

Unfortunately... Close DCA, make it an extentsion of the Smithsonian Inst. a museum for civil air travel up to the 21st century.

Then do we also need to consider the proximity of LGA, MDW, SAN, MIA, and a few others where air traffic passes over or close to large buildings?



User currently offlineMilemaster From United States of America, joined Mar 2001, 1063 posts, RR: 2
Reply 10, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 820 times:

DCA will not be closed permenantly..

1st of all, we all know now that any flight going anywhere from any airport can be deviated to the DC area.

This issue needs to be attacked at the aircraft level.

Solutions I see as possible:
Cockpit doors that remain deadbolted while the aircraft is in flight(There is a lavatory accessibility issue here, but it's a safety solution - This can be resolved by just having a CCTV that can be viewed by the pilots before opening the door).

Armed airline employee present on all flights(not FA's, but a specific security professional).

...

I personally would've just discharged an oxygen canister in the terrorist's face somehow.  Wow!


User currently offlineWoodsboy From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 1029 posts, RR: 3
Reply 11, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 818 times:

I think its a gross overreaction to close the airport totally. Increased security at DCA is the answer, just as it is at all airports although I think an extra measure of caution is justified at DCA.

If DCA is closed, imagine the horrific "traffic jam" that will occur at Dullus and BWI, it would make Wash. DC really hard to get into and if they want to cut the US capital off then maybe they should close DCA. The economic impact of closing a very important airport like DCA would surely override the concern of security. If they would be so sure that DCA would not be safe, then what about all the other airports in the United States?

The FAA is going to have to be careful to not cripple the country and decimate an already fragile economy. I cant see the benefit (even the SECURITY benefit) of choking the transportation industry in such a way that that entire sector of the economy would become unprofitable and totally innefficient.


User currently offlineD L X From United States of America, joined May 1999, 11211 posts, RR: 52
Reply 12, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 782 times:

Zrb2: "It sounds to me like you just plain don't like the fact that DCA is located so close to goverment buildings"

DING DING DING! Yes! That is exactly it. Whether by terrorist, or by accident, the chance of loosing builings and people of great national and internation importance is raised considerably by having an airport so close by. This isn't a fact that I was hiding in any way. Plus, it does not matter if the plane involved in the incident is departing from, or arriving at DCA. Just the fact that the airport is nearby makes the plane's location legitimate.


Woodsboy was concerned about the traffic jams at BWI and IAD if DCA was shut down permanently. I don't think these are things to truly be concerned about. Both BWI and IAD are currently operating much much below their capacities. I think either one could totally absorb DCA's traffic (which has been for years limited to 30 ops per hour) without problem.



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User currently offlineArchitect From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 21 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 751 times:

Its not just the airports capacity that would be stretched if DCA were closed. Travel to either airport from the city would severely impact roads already at or beyond capacity. Even more importantly, it would be members of congress that would be inconvenienced.

I also think it would be the end of USAirways - the buisiness airport of choice would become IAD (where US would run smack into UA) and the low cost / low yield alternative would remain at BWI. Everyone else could and would move to IAD and BWI, but I bet US would really miss all of the buisiness traffic they capture out of DCA.


User currently offlineYoungDon From United States of America, joined May 2001, 394 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 739 times:

Thirty ops per hour? Really?  Nuts

User currently offlineAgnusBymaster From United States of America, joined Feb 2001, 652 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 743 times:

I understand the reasoning behind closing DCA, but personally, I love flying out of the airport and would be very sad to see it go.

User currently offlineVictech From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 546 posts, RR: 2
Reply 16, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 12 hours ago) and read 728 times:

My problem if DCA gets closed is my inability to access MetroRail. When I go to DC, I don't rent a car, I simply take the MetroRail/MetroBus system whereever I need to go - its certainly cheaper. Since BWI and Dulles are not accessible via Metro, it'll make my life just that bit harder.

User currently offlineD L X From United States of America, joined May 1999, 11211 posts, RR: 52
Reply 17, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 704 times:

Architect, I don't think traffic to either IAD or BWI would be affected at all. Remember that great big Dulles Toll Road with the free highway that leads to Dulles? I've never seen a traffic jam on that road in all the years I lived in Northern Virginia. Beyond that, there are more ways to get to IAD. There's 66, 7, and 28 also. Dulles was planned quite well for expansion. In fact, wasn't Dulles planned to REPLACE DCA in the first place?

Metrorail is a very big issue though. DCA has become incredibly convenient compared to IAD and BWI. The time however, has long come for the orange line to be extended to Dulles. Sterling, Reston, Herndon, and Chantilly are booming communities that could use the service. When you think about it, Metrorail service in VA is very limited compared to in MD where the red line goes all the way to Gaithersburg.

Also, I don't see US dying at the hands of UA any time soon. Remember, US ramped up at IAD within the last two years and UA was actually quite affected by it. Their response then was an attempt to buy AWA to use the planes to compete against US. I doubt US is afraid of consolidating at IAD. I also doubt that IAD would remain very low-fare if there was no DCA. You can't use the variables of today if DCA was closed.



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User currently offlineSforamper From United States of America, joined Mar 2000, 114 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 688 times:

I wouldnt wanna be on a flight with some kind of problem flying over DC knowing that a couple of fighters are on my ass, the government wont take any chances now.

User currently offlineCx flyboy From Hong Kong, joined Dec 1999, 6587 posts, RR: 55
Reply 19, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 685 times:

Closing an airport is a major deal. If they cannot get security to be good enough, then fair enough, but closing cimply because it is near a city is absurd. It doesn't matter where an aiport is.

There has been talk of permanently keeping fighters on ready alert. This means that aircraft must be airborne within 15 minutes. I am not sure where these fighters would be kept, but lets say that flying time to major cities is 5-10 minutes. It would take at least 20 minutes for a fighter to respond to any situation.

Aircraft fly high altitude over cities all the time. In 20 minutes any of these aircraft could be used to hit any target. You don't need an airport next to a city. 20 minutes is a long time. I was in the simulator last night doing a simulated cargo fire. We were at FL330 and were on the ground in Taipei in 13 minutes. If we had planned to hit a ground target and not slowed down to join an ILS, we would not have even needed 13 minutes. No fighter could have got to us in that time.

What I am saying is that it is useless to close any airport because of proximity to houses or a city. It doesn't prevent the unthinkable from happening again.


User currently offlineN202PA From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 1558 posts, RR: 3
Reply 20, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 9 hours ago) and read 665 times:

Personally, I think people are going into hysterics over this nonsense about closing National. Here's why:

Closing an airport is a major deal. If they cannot get security to be good enough, then fair enough, but closing cimply because it is near a city is absurd. It doesn't matter where an aiport is.

This is a very astute point that some fail to realize. Whether or not an airplane takes off from DCA, IAD, or BWI, the demented mind of a determined hijacker will find a way to easily destroy his target, regardless of how close he is to it. The AA 757 that crashed into the Pentagon came from Dulles, not National--and flew all the way to eastern Kentucky before turning around and flying all the way back to the Pentagon. And the terrorists still hit their target unmolested.

Anyone who lives in the Washington area knows that it would take little more than a few minutes for a jet aircraft to reach the Pentagon (or any other national monument, such as the Capitol or the White House) and crash. Should we then close Dulles? After all, it poses a threat to our most precious national structures. What about O'Hare? Surely some madman could fly a jet over Lake Michigan, turn around and crash into the Sears Tower. And you'd be no safer there than if you were flying out of National. We can't close all of the airports in the nation because they are within proximity of structures and cities that can be destroyed. It's a sad but true fact.

The answer, then, is clearly instituting high-level security precautions at those airports deemed to be of marginally higher risk than others (such as DCA) so that no terrorist can bring aboard weapons, explosives or any other device that could destroy or disable an aircraft and its crew. Further, the answer lies in equipping aircraft in flight with security that can disable a hijacker before he can reach the flight deck and cause the sort of disasters that occurred on Tuesday.

However, the safety of the nation is not enhanced, to any measurable degree, by shutting down a single airport which is only moments closer for a terrorist to crash an airplane than another, larger airport.

There has been talk of permanently keeping fighters on ready alert. This means that aircraft must be airborne within 15 minutes. I am not sure where these fighters would be kept, but lets say that flying time to major cities is 5-10 minutes. It would take at least 20 minutes for a fighter to respond to any situation.

Well, in the case of Washington, I imagine that it would behoove the MWAA to implore the government to station fighters equipped for the shootdown of a rogue aircraft at Andrews Air Force Base. In this case, flight time would be, at most, 5-10 minutes, conservatively estimated.

Other cities that suffer from the problem of a close-in airport, like Chicago and Boston, might have different air force bases nearby. And the solutions there might be different.

Metrorail is a very big issue though. DCA has become incredibly convenient compared to IAD and BWI. The time however, has long come for the orange line to be extended to Dulles. Sterling, Reston, Herndon, and Chantilly are booming communities that could use the service.

The Orange Line expansion will happen soon, I think. It is currently being studied by Metro, along with a dedicated busway option down the Toll Road to West Falls Church.

However, the idea that Metro at Dulles somehow replaces the convenience that business travellers (as well as District residents) gain from using National is a farce, at best. To take the Metro from Farragut West to West Falls Church takes between 20 and 25 minutes, at the fastest. A trip from Dulles to West Falls Church, stops included, could take just as long. And this is not even including any other travel you might have to do--such as, say, from downtown up to Silver Spring or Bethesda. Nor does it include the reduced schedules of off-peak travel (ie, every 20 minutes). You are, then, talking about a commute that could last from between 50 to 70 minutes or more just to get to the airport via public transportation. It just wouldn't be worth it.

The Dulles Airport extension of the Orange line is still needed, but as a supplement to the National Airport option. To say that area travellers could only use Dulles would be taking a huge step backwards in terms of convenience and economic development for the region.

What would make Dulles a viable option, as with airports in Germany and in England (to name a few) would be to have high-speed, non-stop rail between Dulles and downtown Washington. This would allow people to get to where they need to go just as quickly as if they arrived at National. Unfortunately, this is simply an unrealistic notion--there is simply nowhere to put that sort of system, given that Metro will be using the middle of the Toll Road. Further, existing rail lines do not pass by Dulles Airport as with other cities, making it unfortunately impossible to make use of them. (If Virginia planners had had any forethought, they would have saved the old W&OD line and used it for such a purpose, but that's a different story)

In any case, I'm going to get to the point here. First, as some have said before, the only thing that will prevent a hijacking like the one we saw on Tuesday will be increased security measures across the board. Such measures include bulletproof, locked flight deck doors, improved baggage scanning and metal detecting technology, and pat-down searches at the airport. They also include much tighter security borders at our nation's airports, accessed only by searched and authorized vehicles with appointments, and routinely patrolled by air and ground for trespassers. Further, national guard troops should be stationed at every airport in the nation, patrolling the terminals and watching out for suspicious activity.

In the case of National, this means more stringent measures such as routine, daily patrol of the airport and flight paths by both helicopters and fighter jets, coordinated to prevent an attack on any building. Further, this would mean the installation of missile placements on top of the Pentagon, Capitol, and White House (if the rumor isn't true), which can take out any aircraft that has deviated from its flight path.

Now, even I recognize that DCA has some security and safety problems that do need to be fixed. However, I believe that they can be fixed with the imposition of a few key changes.

First, Gravelly Point should be fenced off or mostly sunk into the water by removing the land and carting it off elsewhere (more in a moment on this). The safety risk is too great, as any terrorist could load up on shoulder-mounted missles or machine guns and fire at will at a landing plane--which would have too little time to do anything about the damage. This has been a safety hazard for years, and it needs to go. A further change coupled with this would be to fence off the GW Parkway and make it a no-stopping zone.

Second, runway 15/33 would need to be immediately removed. This runway brings small planes (ie, Dash-8, Do 328) landing from the NW perilously close to the Pentagon, and after this week's tragic crash, that's a risk that just cannot be taken anymore.

Third, runway 4/22 would also need to be removed. It adds very little to the airport, and its removal would gain the airfield space that it will need for future growth.

Fourth, the 1 end of rwy. 1/19 would have to be extended for safety reasons. Using the fill dirt from Gravelly Point and other dirt from elsewhere in the region, the runway probably could be extended to a usable length of around 9,000 feet. This would be plenty long enough for any landing jet, and would give enough safe rollout for an aircraft in trouble.

Fifth, a new east-west runway would have to be constructed to handle the commuter traffic that has been bumped off by the closure and removal of rwy. 15/33. You'd have to demolish part or all of the general aviation terminal and hangars, as well as the field's flight kitchen, but these facilities could all be moved to the northwest end of the field, where the runway space used to be. A slightly shorter runway could thus be built, jutting out into the Potomac (perhaps even replicating the path of the east-west runway that the field used to have over 50 years ago).

Finally, all single-engine general aviation traffic (and perhaps all non-jet gen av traffic) would have to be kicked off the field to other airports. They could use Dulles or Manassas. Or the College Park airfield, which could be built up, and conveniently features a nearby Metro stop on the Green line. Doing this would ensure that the volume of traffic (in terms of both aircraft and passengers) using the airport is greater, without compromising safety.

These changes would ensure that real progress would be made in terms of making DCA a safer airport. Would planes still be able to fly into buildings? Sure, but not significantly more than at any other airport in the nation.

The fact that National Airport brings in over $1 billion in revenue for the state of Virginia and is overwhelmingly liked by business travellers and Congressmen alike will keep the airport open for the long-term. Once safety issues are worked out at the airport (and mind you, my list of changes is radical compared to what will likely be worked out), the airport will open and operate into the future.


User currently offlineDCA-ROCguy From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 4488 posts, RR: 33
Reply 21, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 637 times:

N202PA, you really ought to boil down this excellent essay for the Washington Post. I mean it. It's better than a lot of stuff that makes it into the Outlook Section on Sunday. Although I am not yet completely convinced that DCA should remain open, you have moved me a long way in that direction.

As a fellow Washingtonian, I concour about all your judgments about ground transportation and the suitability of BWI and Dulles to handle DCA traffic. If it had to be done, the road access to BWI would have to be improved (Route 50 an expwy all the way to 395 at Fourth St NW, BW Parkway widened to 3 lanes each way) and the Orange line extn *plus* a high-speed rail line would need to be open. I shudder at the thought of stop-stop-stopping my way to Dulles for 70-90 minutes on Metro. No thanks (I live in the District).

Also, your proposed relayout of DCA is exactly what's needed. There would need to be a commuter runway, and it would have to point east-west, probably along the south end of the field by ripping out all the general av area and employee parking. Put the employee parking in Potomac Yards and bus them over.

Also, if there was ever a time to get 1-19 lengthened, this is it. Safety demands that runway be upped to 9000 feet, and it wouldn't hurt river flow if extended southwards.

Jim


User currently offlineD L X From United States of America, joined May 1999, 11211 posts, RR: 52
Reply 22, posted (12 years 10 months 2 weeks 5 days 5 hours ago) and read 620 times:

Please take the time to read and comprehend what I am saying in my posts. Sorry to sound like a jerk, but it seems my point is getting ignored, or misrepresented.

Boston and Chicago have much different situations than DCA. DCA poses a safety issue to the Pentagon, less than a mile from the end of the runway, and to the Capitol and White House less than 2 miles away. These are not just any old city buildings. I am not saying to close down all airports near cities. I hope that's clear enough.

With that said, would you rather have minute's notice, or second's notice to defend, evacuate, or at least brace? With National being where it is, you have seconds. On top of that, had National Airport not been where it was, the Pentagon, the White House, and the Capitol would have known that there was a plane going somewhere it had no business being in tuesday's tragedy. But, even in a world without terrorism, these important builings (and I shouldn't have to tell you why they're more important than anything downtown in Boston or Chicago) are in harm's way. An accident could severly impede our military, or destroy the whole Congress or Executive Branch.

Fact is, Dulles was designed to handle the growth of the DC area, and to replace DCA.

I think the complaint that Dulles is too far away, and will take revenue away from Northern Virginia is a poor excuse. The revenue that National makes would still go somewhere, mostly to Dulles. The fares at Dulles would rise (like they are already for longer distance travel) and it would be as busy as it was designed to be. Think about this: which is the premiere airport in Chicago? The close in one (MDW) or the distant one (ORD)? Where are the high fares? Where are the business travelers?
How about Dallas? Has Denver's commerce dropped since they moved their airport away from the city?

I won't talk about the idea of reconfiguring the runways at DCA as I don't really think it's relevant to the discussion.

Now, there is much in your essay that I quite agree with. I don't think closing DCA is the one thing that will make it all better, but part of a comprehensive plan to make our skies safer. I think the security issues you speak of that are not directly related to DCA are spot on, but better discussed in other threads.




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