Why Reagan National flights must be limited

Saturday, March 5, 2011; 5:43 PM

The Feb. 27 letter "Getting it wrong on National Airport" would be dangerous if Capitol Hill decision-makers read and believed it. Congress does not write the laws of physics. The single main runway at Reagan National Airport is 6,869 feet, among the shortest of any major American airport, and it cannot reasonably be lengthened. It is the shortness of this runway that requires the 1,250-mile perimeter rule for flight destinations and that restricts National to smaller airliners.

This short runway leaves small safety margins for flights, even to destinations within the perimeter. Adding fuel for transcontinental flights would make the margins even tighter. That is why most longer-distance flights have been relegated to Dulles International Airport, where three of the four runways are longer than 10,000 feet. Shoehorning larger, heavier aircraft and higher traffic into National would create an all-too-real potential for catastrophe, especially in the event of precipitation, a mechanical problem or an operational lapse.

John J. Kohout III, Alexandria

The writer is a member of the transportation committee of the Mount Vernon Council of Citizens' Associations.

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