Washington DC's Reagan National airport is to be reopened to general aviation, but tight security restrictions are expected to limit access to corporate and charter operations. Halted after the 2001 terrorist attacks, GA flights are expected to resume within 90 days.

The need for advanced notice and background checks, security inspections at gateway airports, restricted slots and the requirement to carry an armed law-enforcement officer on flights are expected to limit accessibility to corporate and charter operators with the resources to comply with the measures.

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and National Air Transportation Association, representing corporate and charter operators, welcome the move. But the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) says the security requirements "are too complex and expensive".

NBAA president Ed Bolen describes the plan "as a good first step". Once the plan is in place, says GAMA president Pete Bunce, "we can work to increase the number of gateway airports and operators". The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says it will continue to work with AOPA to open National to private aircraft.

GA use of National will be limited to 48 take-off and landing slots a day spread over 12h. Pre-qualified operators must submit passenger and crew manifests 24h in advance. Crews will have fingerprint-based criminal history checks, with enhanced checks for passengers. All flights will be routed via 12 gateway airports across the USA, where the TSA will screen aircraft and occupants and a law-enforcement officer authorised to use force will join the flight.

Source: Flight International