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Lawmakers ask for MWAA probe

UPDATED 8:20 p.m.

In a statement, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said it "strongly supports the funding of the Federal Aviation Administration and the important aviation programs that funding will provide, including NextGen."

"The Airports Authority will cooperate fully with any inquiries from federal agencies regarding the operations of our airports," the statement read.


Two senators on the Commerce Committee, in an escalation of the long-brewing fight between lawmakers over flights out of Reagan National Airport, said Friday they plan to ask for formal investigations and future hearings related to the governance of the airport.

Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.) were both especially critical of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which oversees National and Dulles International Airport, during a Thursday afternoon public hearing on Capitol Hill, with Dorgan issuing a threat that the airports authority either change or face tougher congressional oversight.

The Federal Aviation Administration's funding bill has been stalled since 2007 as lawmakers debate the proposed expansion of the number of long-distance flights at National, which because of its small size and proximity to neighboring Arlington communities limits the number of incoming and outgoing trips.

Some senators from Western states want to ease the "perimeter rule," which bans most flights to destinations more than 1,250 miles from National. Those long-haul flights can use larger, noisier planes than short ones.

Rockefeller's office said the Commerce Committee would ask for an investigation by the Department of Transportation's inspector general, a comprehensive review by the Government Accountability Office and additional hearings "to bring clarity to (MWAA's) relationship with Congress."

Reached Friday afternoon, the airports authority did not immediately have a comment on the Commerce Committee's calls for a probe.

-- Derek Kravitz

The full press release from the Commerce Committee is after the jump:


Announce Request for Federal Investigation and Intent to Hold Additional Hearings

WASHINGTON, D.C.--U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV and Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security Subcommittee Chairman Byron L. Dorgan today announced that they intend to conduct further oversight of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA or Authority) in an effort to provide greater transparency and accountability regarding the Authority's operation and maintenance of National Airport and Dulles Airport.

"We left this week's hearing on MWAA oversight very unsatisfied by the responses we heard from the Authority's witnesses," Chairman Rockefeller said. "MWAA's actions have broad implications for other regions of the country, American consumers and essential federal initiatives--including the modernization of our air traffic control system. Our Committee will continue to follow up until we receive adequate answers to our questions."

"What we heard at the hearing this week persuaded both Senator Rockefeller and me that there needs to be much more accountability for this Authority, which was created by Congress. The hearing raised questions about how the Authority is managed, and what kind of planning it is doing," Senator Dorgan said. "We need more hearings to determine what kind of accountability exists, and how that accountability should change. We need a comprehensive look at the Authority's finances and other actions, which have led to National Airport being one of the highest fare airports in the country."

The Senate Commerce Committee will request that the Department of Transportation Inspector General conduct an investigation into MWAA's compliance with Congressional mandates, and initiate a comprehensive review by the Government Accountability Office of its previous reporting on the Washington area airports' ability to handle additional capacity and beyond-perimeter flights. As this information is developed the Committee plans to schedule additional hearings on MWAA to bring clarity to its relationship with Congress.


By Derek Kravitz  | September 17, 2010; 2:53 PM ET
Categories:  Airlines, Airports, Aviation, Transportation Politics, Virginia  
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The planes will not be larger or noisier than the ones that fly there currently. There's no longer any reason for the perimeter rule.

Posted by: dkf747 | September 18, 2010 6:38 AM | Report abuse

I can fly from Natioanal to Los Angeles non stop. I'm not sure if there is a lot of demand for overseas flights from National.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | September 19, 2010 12:16 AM | Report abuse

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