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D.C. celebrates Reagan Airport reopening

US Airways Flight 6850 takes off from Reagan National Airport on Thursday.
US Airways Flight 6850 takes off from Reagan National Airport on Thursday.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Washington-area political leaders celebrated the reopening of Reagan National Airport Thursday after returning from a round-trip flight to New York.

After US Airways Flight 6850 landed safely at New York's LaGuardia Airport, many of the contingent turned around and flew back to Washington.

"I'm here to tell you the coffee was hot, the orange juice was cold, New York's still there and Reagan National is back," Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore said at an airport ceremony.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat representing the District of Columbia, urged visitors to come back to Washington.

"We feel like horses left at the gate when everybody else was running," she said of the reopening, the last among major U.S. airports since the September 11 terrorist attacks. "We've got to run to make up for lost time and lost money and lost folks who wanted to come here."

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The airport was scheduled to handle 110 flights Thursday, compared to its normal 790.

Located on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, Reagan National is very close to the Pentagon and about three miles from the White House. That proximity led authorities to shut down the airport while tighter security measures were put into place.

The precautions were to include armed federal air marshals on every flight in and out of the airport and double screenings of passengers. Also, flight routes into and out of the airport have been altered, keeping planes farther from the district.

The heightened security was evident Thursday, including federal marshals, canine units and National Guardsmen patrolling the airport.

The airport employs more than 10,000 people and contributes billions of dollars in business revenue to the local economy, officials say. About 15.9 million passengers -- 42,000 a day -- used the airport in 2000.

"It's exciting to see Reagan National Airport opened up," Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said earlier. "I think it's part of the whole issue of getting confidence back into the economy, as well as confidence into travel."

CNN's Kathleen Koch contributed to this report.


• Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

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