Washington National Airport Will Start Seeing Disruption Of Its Night Time Flights

Washington National airport – named by federal legislation for former President Ronald Reagan in 1998 – will be closing its main runway for reconstruction work overnight in the coming weeks.

Aviation watchdog JonNYC flags “nothing bigger than an A319 will be able to land after 10pm” at Washington’s National airport during runway work.

The main runway 1/19, aligned north-south, stretches to 6,869 feet. That’s not long enough for a fully loaded widebody, but more than sufficient for larger narrowbody aircraft. The secondary runway that planes will have to be redirected to during the closure is about 25% shorter at 5,204 feet.

Even the main runway limits aircraft that can operate at the airport. For instance,

There are several flights currently scheduled that will need to change aircraft given arrivals being restricted to a shorter runway. For instance there’s an American Airlines Boeing 737 from Chicago currently slated to arrive at 10:29 p.m. and a Boeing 737 MAX from Miami scheduled for 11:53 p.m. arrival. Presumably those flights will be downgauged.

However I wonder what will happen to the completion factor of earlier flights, scheduled for larger aircraft meant to arrive before the 10 p.m. runway closure, but that are delayed? Since presumably they’ll need to cancel.

There’s a common misconception that National airport has a curfew, but that’s not accurate. There are nighttime noise limits in place for 10 p.m. – 6:59 a.m. When it was imposed over 40 years ago many aircraft didn’t meet those standards and couldn’t operate at the airport during that period without incurring a fine. However modern aircraft generally meet the airport’s noise rules.

The airport actually has a third runway as well, 4-22, that clocks in at just 4911 feet. It sees little use because it’s short for commercial operations, and there is very little general aviation traffic permitted at the airport. Very few politicians and dignitaries even are able to get permission given the Flight-Restricted Zone put in place after 9/11 because of the airport’s proximity to high profile government buildings. Anything other than scheduled commercial and government flights requires an FAA waiver.

Update: JonNYC points out that senior politicians will be inconvenienced by this, especially given the potential for delays which could lead to more cancellations (or perhaps diversions).

I would guess that could include more cabinet secretaries using this as an argument to fly private. The convenience of politicians was a key roadblock when the airport’s management was devolved from the federal government to the local community – a key concession was maintaining free close-in parking for members of Congress and others…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I don’t see the issue with it being more “delicate” because of elected officials. It’s not like they’re the most efficient workers and taking an earlier flight in the day seems like a seemingly reasonable option of which I’m sure they’d have no problem availing.

  2. somehow doubt any airline showed off the 787 in 2005 at DCA, since the first prototype wasn’t rolled out until 2007 and its maiden flight didn’t take off until 2009.

  3. I’m curious to see what jetBlue will do with the daily SJU flight that’s typically scheduled to arrive right before 10:00pm, and is either in an A-320 or an A-321.

  4. Why do you keep calling it National airport when it’s name is, well you know. I’m no fan of the guy but he was a President, it seems, not right?
    You don’t call JFK airport Idlewild after all. Thoughts?

  5. JorgeGeorge: The official name of the airport is “Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.” That’s kind of long; we can effectively shorten that to “Washington National Airport” or, for locals, just “National Airport” as all the locals know where that is.

    The renaming started in 1998 as a dream of Grover Norquist, after Reagan was diagnosed with dementia. He started a project to name something after Reagan in every US county. The Republicans in Congress seized on the idea as at the time Reagan was one step below God Almighty to them and rammed the legislation through; Bill Clinton was president at the time but that was not a hill he was going to die on so he signed it. This went against the wishes of most of the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia – shorthand for the DC metropolitan area) and also was opposed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, the agency created in the 1980s when the Federal airports (National, Dulles) were given over to local operation. Didn’t matter – we gon’ name this here airport after Ronnie and that’s that. (Reagan himself, who didn’t like the Federal Government running roughshod over local government, probably wouldn’t have liked the idea being done like that.) Subsequently, again when the Republicans were in charge of Congress, they threatened pulling Federal funding if other agencies (George Washington Parkway, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, etc.) didn’t change all their signage forthwith to include the Reagan name. So the issue remains controversial to many, and I applaud Gary calling the airport by its authentic and traditional name.

    Note: John Foster Dulles, whose name is on the other airport, was no saint either.

  6. Carltonm: thanks for the fascinating history lesson! I live history!
    It figures the republicans would over play their hand and make the name to long LOL! Gives people an easy out…..

  7. Yeah, that’s what the 1998 Republicans and Grover Norquist hoped people would shorten the name to. Mission Accomplished, I guess.

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