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THURSDAY, MAY 5, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Reagan National Airport poses security problem

Reagan National Airport was a problem long before terrorism made it a greater one. In the heart of the vast federal complex of Washington, D.C., National remains one of the world's favorite destinations, and thus a problem.

Most people think it should be closed but no one wants to close the facility. Even Congress stopped Washington bureaucrats who tried to move all traffic to Dulles International some 26 miles away to Virginia, because of congestion.

National is a convenient 15- minute taxi ride from downtown Washington, D.C., and a metro stop to the city and its suburbs.

It's also a few minutes flight to the White House, which is a concern for anti- terrorism and safety experts.

Having an airport that is close to potential targets and densely populated areas could have disastrous consequences. But most people flying in and out of the airport are willing to trade concern for convenience.

At 10:40 a.m. April 27, security radar spotted a flying object 20 miles south of the airport. Eighteen minutes later, President Bush was in a bunker and Vice-President Cheney was leaving the White House for a remote, secured site.

The radar, it turned out, spotted a weather anomaly that was flying at about the same speed as a helicopter.

Congress and the Bush administration are aware of National's vulnerability. Security is tight and passengers flying into and out of the District are restricted to their seats for the first and last 30 minutes of the flight.

While last week's incident unnerved some people, the restrictions on aircraft flying in the area, and the White House's response make it unlikely that terrorists can succeed there.

To close the popular airport is to give in to terrorists. Let's keep it open.

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