Virginia and Maryland Senators’ Response to Overburdened DCA

DCA Control Tower at Reagan Washington National Airport. Photo: mbell1975 / Flickr

U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-MD) have voiced their disappointment with the Senate Commerce Committee’s decision to undermine the current ‘slots and perimeter’ rules at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) as part of the Senate version of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act. The Committee’s decision will force DCA to cram additional flights into its already crowded schedule, further straining its resources at a time when air traffic controllers are overburdened and exhausted. 

The senators are concerned that this will risk the safety of everyone who uses the airport. Congress has since 1986 restricted the number of nonstop flights that can originate out of DCA to airports outside of a 1,250-mile perimeter, with Washington Dulles International (IAD) and Baltimore-Washington International Marshall (BWI) planned as the growth airports for the region’s aviation needs. 

“We are deeply disappointed by the Senate Commerce Committee’s move to overburden DCA. With this profoundly reckless decision, the Committee is gambling with the safety of everyone who uses this airport…” in a statement from the senators. 

However, in past FAA reauthorization bills, Congress has made changes to these rules that have disrupted the balance in this three-airport system by adding additional flights.

The senators have called upon everyone involved to reject any backroom deal-making that prioritizes particular senators’ desires for a more convenient commute over the safety of the flying public. In March, they sent a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee strongly opposing any further changes at airports that serve residents of the National Capital Area. They have also penned an op-ed last June urging their colleagues to oppose changes to the current slot and perimeter rules at DCA.

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