DCA GA Access Plan Has Strings Attached

 - July 23, 2007, 10:31 AM

The strict security requirements of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) just-released plan to reopen Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) to general aviation in about 90 days might prove to be so expensive and complicated that some operators could be discouraged from using the airport. DCA has been closed to GA since 9/11. The plan limits GA operations to 24 IFR arrival slots and 24 IFR departure slots in a 12-hour period each day; requires an armed law enforcement officer to be carried on each flight carrying passengers to or from DCA; requires crewmembers and passengers to undergo background checks; and mandates that all flights to DCA must pass through or originate at one of 12 designated “portal airports.” In addition, crew, passengers, baggage and airplanes destined for DCA must be inspected by the TSA. For each GA flight to or from DCA, operators must submit crew and passenger manifests 24 hours in advance. All GA flights will be subject to the carriage of a federal air marshal (at the operator’s expense), and operators seeking access to DCA will need to apply for a waiver. There will also be a security fee. Full details of the plan are expected to be published in the Federal Register within the next few days. “While enthusiasm may be tempered in some corners by the restrictions in the plan, our experience in restoring access to Washington airspace for commercial and general aviation tells us that the development of operational procedures is constantly evolving,” NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen said. “This plan, therefore, should be viewed as a good first step in normalizing general aviation operations at DCA.”