(CNSNews.com) - U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta announced Wednesday that flight operations at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport will return to their pre-Sept. 11 capacity by April 15, thus completing the full restoration of the nation's commercial aviation system following the September terrorist attacks.
"The return of Reagan National Airport to pre-Sept. 11 totals is a major milestone in our nation's recovery from the tragedy we experience just six short months ago. The recovery of this airport attests to our nation's resolve," said Mineta.
The airport was reopened Oct. 4. It had been returning to full capacity in phases, which Department of Transportation (DOT) officials said allowed federal and local authorities time to implement enhanced security measures at all airports.
During the first phase of restored flights, service was allowed to eight cities. Phase Two, which began Oct. 26, permitted service to an additional 18 cities. Phase Three, carried out in three stages, began Jan. 2 with incremental increases on Feb. 1 and March 1. Service to a total of 43 additional cities was restored during Phase Three, raising the total number of daily flights out of Reagan National to 620, 77 percent of its pre-Sept. 11 total.
When service is fully restored, approximately 800 daily flights will originate from the airport located close to the Pentagon and just across the Potomac River from the U.S. Capitol building and the White House.
Sen.George Allen (R-Va.), a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which oversees aviation issues, praised Mineta's announcement.
"April 15 is better known for Tax Day, but this year it will be much less taxing
for people in our area and around the nation who rely on Reagan National Airport
for access to our nation's capital region and to Northern Virginia," Allen said.
"Almost 16 million air travelers a year rely on Reagan National Airport for
their travel needs, generating $5 billion a year. Reagan National Airport is absolutely essential to Virginia's economy and an efficiently operating federal government in Washington, D.C," Allen said.
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