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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America's New War: Reagan National Airport May Reopen Soon

Aired October 2, 2001 - 06:13   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: And another debate in Washington this morning. You know it would take only seconds for a passenger jet leaving Reagan National Airport to reach the heart of America's capital and that is why the airport remains closed, but today that might change.

CNN's Kathleen Koch joins us from Washington with more on this.

Kathleen, is the airport likely to open soon?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what we're hearing, Carol. And obviously local and state lawmakers were able to make a very powerful argument to President Bush. First, the economic argument that keeping this airport closed would send this area's economy literally into a tailspin. When this airport is open, some 42,000 passengers every single day use it, more than 10,000 people work here and it's estimated that on a yearly basis it generates for the -- in -- for -- in business revenue for this area more than $5 billion.

Now as to the concern about commercial aircraft threatening the nation's capital, it was pointed out that airplanes from Dulles Airport outside Washington, as we learned on September 11, can be within the nation's capital in just a matter of minutes so that keeping this airport closed didn't eliminate that problem.

And then perhaps the strongest argument, the -- really the most poignant one was the signal that keeping this airport closed would have sent to the rest of the nation, that it would have become literally a monument to terrorism on the banks of the Potomac.

So what we're expecting is that at some point, perhaps as soon as this morning, President Bush will announce that this airport will reopen on a limited basis starting first with shuttle flights to New York City and to Boston. When the flights resume there would be armed federal air marshals on every single flight both into and out of the airport. Another change, all passengers before boarding would be screened not just once but twice.

Another option that they're looking at, at this point, is that approaching routes to the airport would be varied in order to keep fewer planes from approaching very close to the nation's capital. And then a final change would be, of course, strengthening those cockpit doors on every single aircraft to keep the pilots in and any potential terrorists out.

At this point, though, Carol, we have no word on what this will all mean to general aviation, to the private planes which make up nearly a third of the business here at Reagan National Airport. Since September 11, they have actually been banned from flying anywhere within a 25 miles radius of this area.

Back to you.

LIN: But certainly so many passengers will be thankful to not have to fly into Dulles, which is so far away from the district.

KOCH: Quite a distance.

LIN: Yes. Thanks so much. Kathleen Koch reporting live this morning.

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