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History

Hoover Field, near the present site of the Pentagon, was the first major terminal to be developed in the Capital area, opening its doors in 1926. The facility's single runway was intersected by a local street; guards had to stop automobile traffic during takeoffs and landings. The following year Washington Airport, another privately operated field, began service next door.[3] In 1930, the economics of the Great Depression caused the two terminals to merge to form Washington-Hoover Airport. Bordered on the east by U.S. Route 1, with its accompanying high-tension electrical wires, and obstructed by a high smokestack on one approach and a dump nearby, the field was less than adequate.

Although the need for a better airport was acknowledged in 37 studies conducted between 1926 and 1938,[3] there was a statutory prohibition against federal development of airports. When Congress lifted the prohibition in 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt made a recess appropriation of $15 million to build National Airport by reallocating funds from other purposes. Construction of Washington National Airport began in 1940–41 by a company led by John McShain. Congress challenged the legality of FDR's recess appropriation, but construction of the new airport continued.[4]

The airport is southwest of Washington, D.C. The western part of the airport was once within a large Virginia plantation, a remnant of which is now inside a historic site located near the airport's Metrorail station (see Abingdon (plantation) for history). The eastern part of the airport was constructed in the District of Columbia on and near mudflats that were within the tidal Potomac River near Gravelly Point, about 4 statute miles (6.4 km) from the United States Capitol, using landfill dredged from the Potomac.

The airport opened on June 16, 1941.[3] In 1945, Congress passed a law that established the airport was legally within Virginia but under the jurisdiction of the federal government.[3]

The April 1957 Official Airline Guide shows 316 weekday departures: 95 Eastern (plus six flights a week to/from South America), 77 American, 61 Capital, 23 National, 17 TWA, 10 United, 10 Delta, 6 Allegheny, 6 Braniff, 5 Piedmont, 3 Northeast and 3 Northwest.[citation needed]

Service to the airport's dedicated Metro station began in 1977.[5]

[edit]Expansion

The runway layout — limited due to the location and orientation of the airport — has changed little, except for the 1956 closure of a fourth, east-west runway now used for taxiing and aircraft parking. The terminal building was supplemented by the completion of the North Terminal in 1958; the two were connected in 1961. A United Airlines holdroom complex was built in 1965, and a facility for American Airlines was completed in 1968. A commuter terminal was constructed in 1970.[3]

Despite the expansions, several efforts have been made to restrict the growth of the airport. The advent of jet aircraft as well as traffic growth led Congress to pass the Washington Airport Act of 1950, which resulted in the opening of Dulles Airport in 1962. Concerns about aviation noise led to the imposition of noise restrictions even before jet service began in 1966. To reduce congestion and drive traffic to alternative airports, the Federal Aviation Administration imposed landing slot and perimeter restrictions on National and four other high-density airports in 1969.[citation needed]

[edit]Transfer of control and renaming

In 1984, Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole appointed a commission to study transferring National and Dulles Airports from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a local entity, which could use airport revenues to finance improvements.[4] The commission recommended that one multi-state agency administer both Dulles and National, over the alternative of having Virginia control Dulles and the District of Columbia control National.[4] In 1987, Congress, through legislation,[6] transferred control of the airport from the FAA to the new Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority with the Authority's decisions being subject to a Congressional review panel. The constitutionality of the review panel was later challenged in the Supreme Court and the Court has twice declared the oversight panel unconstitutional.[7] Even after this decision, however, Congress has continued to intervene in the management of the airports.[8]

On February 6, 1998, President Bill Clinton signed legislation[9] changing the airport's name from Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, to honor the former president on his 87th birthday.[10] The legislation, passed by Congress in 1998, was drafted against the wishes of MWAA officials and political leaders in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.[11][12] Opponents of the renaming argued that a large federal office building had already been named for Reagan (the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center) and that the airport was already named for a United States President (George Washington).[12] The bill expressly stated that it did not require the expenditure of any funds to accomplish the name change; however, regional, state and federal authorities were later required to change highway and transit signs at their own additional expense as new signs were made. [13][14]

[edit]Construction of current terminal buildings

DCA control tower and new terminal C

With the addition of more flights and limited space in the aging main terminal, the airport began an extensive renovation and expansion in the 1990s. Hangar 11 on the northern end of the airport was converted into The USAir Interim Terminal, designed by Joseph C. Giuliani, FAIA. Soon after an addition for Delta Air Lines was added in 1989 and was later converted to Authority offices. These projects allowed for the relocation of several gates in the main terminal until the new $450 million terminal complex became operational. On July 27, 1997, the new terminal complex, consisting of terminals B and C and two parking garages, opened. Argentine architect César Pelli designed the new terminals of the airport. The USAir Interim Terminal closed immediately after the opening and was converted back into a hangar. One pier of the main terminal (now Terminal A), which mainly housed American Airlines and Pan Am, was demolished; the other pier, originally designed for Northwest/TWA remains operational today as gates 1–9. The American Airlines terminal, the Northwest/TWA terminal, and the US Air Interim terminal were designed by Joseph C. Giuliani, FAIA of Giuliani Associates Architects.

Before 1999, Runway 1/19 and 4/22 were originally designated 18/36 and 3/21.


Source: Wikipedia.org