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Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport facts for kids

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Ronald Reagan
Washington National Airport
Washington national airport.jpg
Airport type Public
Owner Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority
Operator Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority
Serves Washington Metropolitan Area
Location Arlington County, Virginia
Elevation AMSL 15 ft / 5 m
A map with a grid overlay showing the terminals runways and other structures of the airport.
FAA airport diagram
Lua error in Module:Location_map at line 420: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
Runway Length Surface
ft m
1/19 6,869 2,094 Asphalt
4/22 4,911 1,497 Asphalt
15/33 5,204 1,586 Asphalt

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (IATA: DCAICAO: KDCAFAA LID: DCA) is an airport near Washington, D.C.. It is in Arlington County, Virginia. It is the commercial airport closest to Washington, D.C. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) is in control of the airport. It is named after 40th President of the United States Ronald Reagan.

Flights into and out of DCA cannot be longer than 1,250 miles (2,010 km). This rule is used to limit the number of aircraft over Washington. It causes most of the air traffic to be sent to the Washington Dulles International Airport which is larger and further from the city. There are some exceptions to this rule. In 2010, the airport served about 18.1 million passengers. Reagan National is a focus city for American Airlines. They are the airport's largest carrier. The American Shuttle has air shuttle service to LaGuardia Airport in New York City and Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts. Delta Air Lines' Delta Shuttle also has air shuttle service to LaGuardia. These shuttle flights leave Reagan International about once an hour.


Hoover Field was the first major terminal in the Washington area. It was near where the Pentagon is now. It opened in 1926. The airport had one runway. It crossed a local street. People were needed to stop automobile traffic during take-offs and landings. The next year, Washington Airport was opened next to it. It was another privately operated field. In 1930, the economics of the Great Depression caused the two terminals to join to form Washington-Hoover Airport. The field was not very good. On one side of it was U.S. Route 1. This was a large highway which had electrical wires along it. There was also a smokestack that was in the way to one of the runways. A dump was also very close to the airport.

Thirty-seven studies done between 1926 and 1938 showed the need for a better airport. No airport was built at the time because a law did not allow the federal government to build airports. Congress changed this in 1938. President Franklin Roosevelt had the ability to spend money while Congress was not in session. He used that power to spend $15 million to build National Airport. He used money that was to be used for other things. Construction of Washington National Airport began in 1940–41. It was done by a company led by John McShain. Congress did not think that what FDR did was legal. This did not stop the airport from being built.

The airport is southwest of Washington, D.C. The eastern side of the airport was made by filling in the Potomac River. The western part of the airport was once part of a large Virginia plantation. For many years the plantation house was near the airport parking lot. The house burned down. Only small pieces of it are left.

The airport opened on June 16, 1941. In 1945, Congress passed a law that said that the airport was in Virginia but under the control of the federal government.

The April 1957 Official Airline Guide shows that the airport had 316 weekday departures.

In 1977, the Washington Metro opened a station at the airport.


The location of the runways is limited by the location of the airport. It has not changed much over time. One of the few changes was made in 1956. The fourth runway was closed. It was an east-west runway. It is now used just for moving aircraft and for parking them. The terminal building was made larger in 1958. The North Terminal was added. The two buildings were connected in 1961. A United Airlines building was built in 1965. Facilties for American Airlines were built in 1968. A commuter terminal was built in 1970.

Although the airport has been made larger, there have been efforts to limit this. Because of the use of jet aircraft and the amount of traffic, Congress passed the Washington Airport Act of 1950. This caused the opening of Dulles Airport in 1962. Problems with noise caused noise restrictions to be made. This happened before jet aircraft use began in 1966. The Federal Aviation Administration put restrictions on National and four other airports in 1969 to limit problems with high amounts of traffic.

Transfer of control and renaming

In 1984, Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole created a group to look into moving control of National and Dulles Airports from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a local groups. These groups could use the money the airports made to pay make them better. The group felt that it would be better for one agency to be in control of both airports. The other choice was to have Virginia control Dulles and the District of Columbia control National. In 1987, Congress gave control of the airport from the FAA to the new Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA). This groups choices were still under the control of a Congressional review panel. The constitutionality of the review panel was later challenged in the Supreme Court. The Court has twice said that it was not constitutional. Even after this, Congress still takes control of the airports.

In 1998, some friends of Ronald Reagan wanted to name things in all 50 states after him. They wanted a law that would change the name of the airport to "Ronald Reagan Airport". Democratic Congressmen thought it would be better to change the name of the building of the Bureau of the Public Debt instead. They said that the airport was already named after George Washington. Congress chose to change the name of the airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Because of the length of the name, many people call it "National Airport". Congress did not give money to make new signs with the new names. Because of this, it took time for the name to be used commonly. The name of the airport's Metro station is still "National Airport". In early 2001, a letter signed by 24 members of Congress asked that WMATA change the name of the station. A policy from 1987 says that if a group wants to change the name of a station that they must pay the cost of changing the signs and maps. The price to make these changes was thought to be $400,000. Because of this, the name was not changed. This caused Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia to say they would not give money to the agency unless the station was renamed. Congress ultimately voted to require the renaming on November 30. According to the General Manager at the time, Richard A. White, Metro paid to rename the station.


Passenger service

Destinations with non-stop service from the airport.
IMG americanairlines
An American Eagle ERJ outbound from the airport (2006)

Cargo Airlines

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Aeropuerto Nacional Ronald Reagan de Washington para niños

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