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McCain Wants You to Be Able to Fly to Washington/National and New York/LaGuardia From Anywhere in the US

Let’s say you’re John McCain. You’ve finally had a couple months to relax after a very long and taxing presidential campaign. Now it’s time to head back to the Senate and use your influence to really help the country, right? Uh, well, sort of. McCain is back, but he’s not pushing out bills on the most pressing issues of the day. Instead, one of his first acts back on the Hill was to introduce the Abolishing Aviation Barriers Act to eliminate the perimeter rules at Washington/National and New York/LaGuardia airports.

While the perimeter rules may not be the highest on the list of national priorities, I am fully behind this legislation. I wrote a full post on the perimeter rules awhile ago, and you can read that for a full refresher. But in short, there is an imaginary circle drawn around National and LaGuardia, and airlines can’t fly nonstop beyond those points. Here’s a map to help the visual folks here.

Perimeter Rule

Airlines can’t fly nonstop from LaGuardia to anywhere west of the red line or from National to anywhere west of the blue line. It’s not on the map, but Denver got itself an exemption for LaGuardia flights awhile back, and there were a few exemptions that McCain pushed through for National flights beyond the perimeter as well. The National exemptions of course greatly benefited his constituent carrier, America West, which walked away with half the exemptions to fly back to Phoenix and Vegas. America West is now US Airways, and they have a bunch of slots at National and LaGuardia that they’d love to use to fly beyond the perimeter. McCain is clearly trying to treat his home airline well here.

Let’s be honest. These rules are dumb. They were initially instituted back in the day when newer, further airports were being built at JFK and Dulles and they wanted to phase out the use of National and LaGuardia. Instead of shutting them down (Congress couldn’t let go of an airport that’s so close for their own purposes), they slapped these rules on. The rules have changed over the years, but looking at it now, it just seems silly. I mean, there is absolutely no reason for these rules to exist anymore. If it’s a safety issue, then close down the airport. If not, let airlines fly where demand takes them. Everyone will be better off. It’s not like it would increase the amount of traffic. Airlines would simply turn in their flights to Akron and fly to LA instead. Seems smart to me.

The bill is a very simple one. So simple that I’ll just past it here. It’s Senate bill 36.


To repeal the perimeter rule for Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Abolishing Aviation Barriers Act of 2009′.


(a) In General- Chapter 449 of title 49, United States Code, is amended by striking section 49109.

(b) Clerical Amendment- The chapter analysis for chapter 449 of title 49, United States Code, is amended by striking the item relating to section 49109 and inserting the following:

`44901. Repealed.’.


Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be obligated or expended after the date of enactment of this Act to enforce the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey rule banning flights beyond 1,500 miles (or any other flight distance related restriction), from arrival or departure at New York LaGuardia Airport.

So it wouldn’t really end the rule in New York, but it would no longer allow federal funds to dictate where airplanes fly from the airport. And I have to think that the Port Authority would like these longer haul flights since they’ll probably replace prop planes which serve fewer passengers.

Oh, and Section 44901? It states:

An air carrier may not operate an aircraft nonstop in air transportation between Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and another airport that is more than 1,250 statute miles away from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Despite the fact that this is of very little to no national importance, I hope we see it pass.

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