Ronald Reagan Legacy Project: Control Tower at National Airport Goes Off the Job

Three hundred sixty-four days out of the year, it’s stupid and offensive that the airport closest to Washington D.C., on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, just up the Potomac River from George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, is stuck with the name “Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.”

Regular old “Washington National Airport” wasn’t good enough for the neo-Stalinist dingbats like

Grover Norquist

. They were (and


) on a mission to prove that everyone loved Ronald Reagan by slapping the Dear Leader’s name on as many things as possible, by fiat, even where it makes no sense.

About once a year lately, however, the “Reagan Airport” name fits. Early yesterday morning, as the last group of late-night flights was arriving, the air-traffic control tower ”

went silent

,” the Washington Post reported:

The tower did not respond to pilot requests for landing assistance or to phone calls from controllers elsewhere in the region, who also used a “shout line” which pipes into a loudspeaker in the tower, internal records show.

Before the lone controller on duty finally reappeared, two of the final three incoming planes of the day had already landed themselves, in consultation with an off-site air-traffic facility. The Post has the transcript of the conversation between an American Airlines pilot and the controller at the offsite facility, Potomac TRACON:

“Is there a reason it’s not manned?” the American pilot asks.

“Well, I’m going to take a guess,” the TRACON controller replies, “and say that the controller got locked out. I’ve heard of it happening before.”

“That’s the first time I’ve heard of it,” the pilot replies.

“Fortunately, it’s not very often,” the controller said. “It happened about a year ago. I’m not sure that’s what happened now, but there’s nobody in the tower.”

Once a year, Reagan Airport

locks out the air-traffic controller

. (Also: once a year, the airport’s seat of command is an

empty room

.) The Great Communicator has his monument.