WASHINGTON – The airport at the nation's capital is getting closer to normal after the Sept. 11, 2001 (search), terror attacks.
Reagan Washington National Airport (search) will reopen to private aviation in mid-August, the Transportation Security Administration said on Friday. The rules will be strict, however, and inconvenient.
In another sign of easing, on Friday at 6 p.m., the rule that passengers on commercial airliners (search) must remain seated for a half-hour after taking off and before landing at the airport was rescinded.
The airport, in Arlington, Va., across the Potomac River from the Capitol and the White House, was closed to private planes after the Sept. 11 attacks. Commercial airline flights were resumed about a month later, but passengers had to remain seated for 30 minutes after takeoff and before landing.
Since then, 22 flights have been diverted from the airport because passengers left their seats. Most of those flights landed at Dulles International Airport in suburban Virginia.
In the years following the attacks, Congress pressured the Transportation Security Administration to open Reagan National to private planes.
The agency said in May it would allow about four flights an hour for 12 hours daily — a maximum of about 17,500 — under strict security precautions.
Before the terror attacks, about 35,000 private and charter flights flew in and out of Reagan National every year.
The security restrictions include:
—Flight crews must have fingerprint-based background checks; law enforcement officers, trained and licensed by the TSA, must accompany each flight.
—Flights will have to land first at one of 12 gateway airports, where passengers and baggage will be screened and the planes inspected.
—Passengers must undergo background checks by the TSA.
The TSA is charging $15 per person for the background check (search) and $296 per plane for the cost of authorizing the flight.
Critics have said the rules are so cumbersome that only corporate jets will be ably to comply with them.