A group representing major airlines endorsed legislation yesterday aimed at shifting control of National and Dulles airports from the federal government to a regional authority.
Officials said the broad endorsement by the Air Transport Association would likely increase prospects for congressional approval of the long-debated measure. The airline group's endorsement included modification of its views on several key issues, officials noted.
"Other sides made accommodations, and we made accommodations," said Daniel Z. Henkin, spokesman for the association. "We're interested in supporting the Transportation Department's bill."
Former Virginia governor Linwood Holton, who headed a 15-member commission that recommended the shift in airport control, praised the airline association's move. "That's a substantial change in the ATA position," he said, terming it a "very positive step."
A spokesman for Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), an advocate of the legislation, said the group's endorsement would "help it quite a bit."
In a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Hanford Dole, the association expressed hope that the bill "will be enacted," but urged one revision in proposals for regulating nighttime noise at National. Key supporters of the legislation said they would accept the proposed amendment.
The legislation, sent to Congress last month by the Transportation Department, would maintain existing curbs on aircraft noise from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The airline association recommended allowing the proposed airport authority to establish nighttime noise rules, rather than having Congress set them.
Officials said the association's proposal marked a shift from its earlier stand, which called for relaxing current restrictions on nighttime noise.
In its letter to Dole, the group raised no objection to a plan to maintain current rules limiting commercial takeoffs and landings to 37 an hour.
Some officials said they believed the group might also seek to ban the proposed authority from imposing a ceiling on flights. The bill would lift the current ceiling but would not bar the authority from setting a new one. The association's letter did not raise this issue.