Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is situated in Arlington County, Virginia, four miles from downtown Washington, D.C. It is the nearest commercial airport to the capital.
Formerly known as Washington National Airport, it was named after late former president Ronald Reagan, in 1998. The older name is inscribed on the stone facade of historic Terminal A. Though the moniker "Reagan National" has gained currency, the airport is still popularly known as "National" or "Washington National."
As of 2005, US Airways was the largest carrier at the airport.
Washington National Airport is subject to a federal "perimeter rule" that prohibits flights to most cities outside a 1,250-mile radius. The rule is an effort to control aviation noise and to drive air traffic to the larger, but more distant, Washington Dulles International Airport. However, the Federal Aviation Administration has allowed six exceptions: Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
Hoover Field, situated near the present site of the Pentagon, was the first major terminal to be developed in the capital area, opening its doors in 1926.
Washington Airport, another privately operated field, began service in the following year. The Great Depression of the 1930s resulted in the merging of the two terminals to form the Washington-Hoover Airport. The resulting facility suffered from numerous inadequacies, including a runway that was intersected by a busy thoroughfare.
To bypass those inadequacies, Washington National Airport was built by the federal government on mudflats alongside the Potomac River at Gravelly Point, four miles south of Washington, D.C. In June 1941, the facility opened for business, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in attendance at the first official landing ceremony. The airport served as a hub for Capital Airlines.
The rapid growth in air traffic resulted in the construction of runway extensions in 1950 and 1955.
The North Terminal was opened in October 1958, which added 7,264 square feet. The 772-foot long passageway between the Main and the North terminals was enclosed in 1961. Metro rail service to the airport began in 1977.
Increasing traffic led to an extensive renovation and expansion plan that was implemented during the 1990s. The expansion resulted in the addition of two new terminals, B and C, in July 1997.
Historic Terminal A was expanded over the following years to its present size. It is presently being modified to restore it to its original design and architecture.