When Washington had only one airport, Hoover Field, which is now downtown Rosslyn, a congressional committee was formed to find a new location. Its first recommendation was Camp Springs, Md., which is now Andrews Air Force Base. Its second choice was Gravelly Point, now National Airport. Its last suggestion was Chantilly, Va., now Dulles.

While National was being dredged out of the river, the Air Force took over Camp Springs for the air defense of the capital. This was before ICBMs or SDI. How many defense aircraft use Andrews today?

Suppose the money earmarked for National by the new airports authority were spent on a passenger terminal at Andrews Air Force Base. The runways there are already built and are longer and therefore safer than at National. The elevation is higher, and the runways could be lengthened farther, which is almost impossible at National. The support facilities for a commercial airport are in place. Located off the Beltway and the Suitland Parkway, it is very accessible.

In this scenario, National would then become the ceremonial "Air Gate" to the city. The president would use it, and high officials, both foreign and domestic, would arrive and depart there.

Small planes and commuter planes would continue to use National. Their flights would be restricted during the infrequent arrivals and departures of dignitaries. The mix of small aircraft with commercial airliners in the same air space is fraught with danger. But the runways at National are of sufficient length to permit safe operation of smaller aircraft.

With commercial aircraft operating out of Andrews, the residential and business areas along the Potomac River would enjoy a significant reduction in noise pollution.

The question to be asked is: What purpose does Andrews serve that could not be served as well, or better, somewhere else?

Cushing Daniel