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National Airport's radius is larger than it may appear

Wednesday, March 9, 2011; 8:14 PM

I couldn't let the allegations in John J. Kohout III's March 6 letter regarding flights at Reagan National Airport stand without correction.

I hold a degree in physics and have been a licensed pilot for more than 49 years. Of course, the laws of physics must be obeyed. This does not prevent clever engineers from improving airplanes so that they can fly farther on the same gallon of fuel and carry more fuel if needed. The safety margins Mr. Kohout cites are decreed by the Federal Aviation Administration and are the same for all airlines at all airports. Mr. Kohout speaks of the 1,250-mile perimeter rule for flights as if it is immutable and determined by physics. This might surprise the happy passengers on Alaska Airlines Flight 001, who, as I write this, are nearing their destination in Seattle, nonstop from National Airport, in a late-model Boeing 737. (Thank you, air-traffic site FlightAware.com.) I believe this distance is close to twice the "1,250-mile rule."

Face it, Mr. Kohout, the "1,250-mile rule" is a political law and, as such, need be obeyed only until politicians change it, which they have. As residents of the Washington area, we're fortunate to have the convenience of National Airport.

Samuel V. Smith, Arlington

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