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For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                           

June 16, 2011

Reagan National Airport Marks 70 Years of Service to the Washington Community

“This airport, soon to be one of the world's greatest facilities and surely its most convenient, and some of us like to think probably its most beautiful, should be brought with all possible emphasis to the attention of our people during this awakening of America.”

                                                ~ President Franklin D. Roosevelt
                                                Dedication speech for National Airport, 1940


On June 16th, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport celebrates its 70th Anniversary.

In 1941, a new airport was needed to satisfy the demand for a facility to serve the Nation’s Capital and to replace two small airports called Hoover and Washington National which were located on a site where the Pentagon now sits. 

The airport was built on a location called Gravelly Point-- named so because the action of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers had been manufacturing and storing gravel over the years. The Army Corps of Engineers built a dike around 500 acres and pumped gravel from the river bed into that space creating the airport’s airfield.
The new site was selected by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Airport opened on June 16, 1941.  Then called National Airport, it served 344,000 passengers that first year. Within five years of opening, the Airport reached the one million annual passenger mark. Today, Reagan National serves more than 18 million passengers per year.

This increase in passengers over the years is symbolic of the dramatic changes in the aviation industry as well.  When National Airport opened, commercial jet aviation was in the future. In 1962, Dulles International opened—the first airport built specifically to handle jet aircraft. Today, commercial aviation is an easily- accessible mode of transportation for a great majority of travelers.

National Airport was built and operated by the federal government, as was Dulles International, until 1987 when the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority was created. Since then, the Airports Authority, under a lease with the federal government, has worked to modernize and continually improve the region’s airports. On February 6, 1998, President William Jefferson Clinton signed into law the bill introduced and passed in Congress that changed the name of Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Over the last 70 years, Reagan National Airport has been transformed. In 1997, a new complex opened with the construction of Terminal B/C, an entirely new two-level roadway system, two parking garages, and direct connections to the Metrorail. Even so, the historic Terminal A was carefully restored in recent years with extensive work done on the façade, and it still serves the traveling public via the six airlines that are located there.

Reagan National’s history is available for all to see by visiting the Exhibit Hall located above the historic Terminal A lobby.  Visitors can view historical and archeological exhibits that describe the early days of aviation in the Nation’s Capital and even the prior use of the Airport’s site in Colonial times.

For more information on the Airport’s history, visit this link: