THANKS TO A solid vote in the Senate, Trans portation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole's proposal for balanced air traffic in the national capital area is again flying high on Capitol Hill. The proposal, aimed at orderly growth and a reasonable limitation on traffic at National Airport, won enough understanding to produce strong insistence by Senate conferees that the House drop its attempt to block the plan.
Sec. Dole's proposal would not--and this point continues to be lost on too many plane-hopping House members--affect a single flight now in operation at National. The policy merely calls for a future ceiling on passenger traffic that would encourage a balanced airport policy and that still would be above today's level. Another point either misunderstood or ignored by some House members in their earlier vote against Sec. Dole's proposal is that this plan is consistent with an initial agreement that was carefully negotiated by Sec. Dole's predecessor, Drew Lewis. That plan, which was agreed to before the air traffic controllers' strike, contained a higher ceiling on passenger traffic at National.
Since the House vote, Mr. Lewis has stated clearly that he believes Sec. Dole's proposal to be "precisely the kind of action we expected might be necessary in the future." In a letter to Virginia's Rep. Frank Wolf, Mr. Lewis has noted that experience during the strike, "which substantially lowered the flights at National, showed little effect on the traveling public." In other words, there should still be plenty of leeway for the airlines to operate at National.
Mr. Lewis concluded, "I hope that the Senate will stand firm on the cap, which will result in an overall improved airports policy . . ." So far the Senate has stood firm--and in the interest of sensible airport policy, so should the Senate's conferees.