Legislator lobbies TSA to re-open D.C. heliport

 - December 28, 2010, 8:01 AM

A senior member of both the House aviation subcommittee and Homeland Security Committee is urging the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to re-open Washington, D.C.’s South Capitol Street Heliport (09W) to civilian traffic. In a letter late last year to TSA administrator John Pistole, U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) noted that 09W “remains closed nearly ten years after 9/11 except for use by law enforcement, military and medical evacuation traffic.”

Norton said that the government’s action amounted to “takeover of a private facility without compensation” despite “the willingness of the heliport to submit to whatever strictures and regulations the government chose to impose” on it.

The heliport is located one mile northeast of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) and is currently home base to D.C. Metro Police’s aviation unit. It opened in 1988 and at its apex had 41 regular corporate operators. After 9/11 and until 2005, limited commercial operations were allowed at 09W provided they complied with FAA Notams and TSA requirements; however, since then they have been prohibited.

Norton’s objections were echoed in an earlier, and unsuccessful, lawsuit brought against the federal government by the heliport’s operator between 1992 and 2002, Air Pegasus.

The U.S. Court of Claims dismissed the lawsuit, which charged the government with a de facto unlawful taking of property via regulation. The U.S. Court of Appeals upheld that ruling, noting that it is the government’s right to control airspace, and that a private party’s property rights do not extend to said airspace.

Norton is recommending that 09W be re-opened with security requirements for private aircraft that mirror those already in place at DCA, including nonstop flights only, designated gateway airports and heliports, and passenger and crew screening.