Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush announced that Reagan National Airport, closed since the terror attacks on the United States three weeks ago, would reopen Thursday under tight security.
"There is no greater symbol that America is back in business than the reopening of this airport," Bush said Tuesday from the terminal of the airport, which sits close to the White House and other national landmarks.
Bush had been urged by members of Congress and local officials to reopen the airport, one of the nation's busiest and the last one to remain closed after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Bush did not give details on the heightened security. But other officials said that flights would be limited, flight patterns varied and armed flight marshals stationed on all planes using the airport.
The airport is to reopen Thursday with shuttle flights to New York's LaGuardia Airport and Boston, according to Matt Raymond, a spokesman for Sen. George Allen, R-Va.
After the shuttle flights begin, service will resume between National Airport and Atlanta, Flights also will resume to and from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, Newark and Pittsburgh, Raymond said.
"We're doing the right thing. We've taken our time. We can assure the American public as best we can that we've taken the necessary safety precautions," Bush said. "Now, it's time to start flying again."
The airport's flight paths bring planes close to the White House, the Capitol and the Pentagon. The Washington Monument loomed in the near distance behind Bush as he made his announcement from a small wooden podium set up between two gates near a U.S. Airways terminal.
Virginia Gov. James Gilmore told the ceremony, "This airport is a beacon and a symbol of freedom, not just for this community but for this entire nation."
The airport terminal underwent a complete renovation in 1997.
Under the new rules, additional cities will be added to service after a month of the limited service. At that time, the airport will be operating at 57 percent of its pre-Sept. 11 service.
Planes can only fly in and out of the airport from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the Boeing 737 will be the largest plane allowed.
Restrictions on air traffic will include a temporary prohibition against flight patterns that follow the Potomac River near the White House, Capitol, Pentagon and CIA.
All passengers will have to go through two security checkpoints, show identification twice, and be limited to one carryon bag. There also will be expanded identification checks for airport employees and flight crews, and expanded police and K-9 patrols. Air marshals will be on board all flights.
"This is the airport that brings our nation's leaders to Washington to do the people's business. It's the airport that welcomes millions of tourists to our nation's capital," Bush said.
"We want the tourists coming back to see our great monuments," he added.