4/24/1966: The Jet-Age Arrives at Washington National
History

4/24/1966: The Jet-Age Arrives at Washington National

DALLAS – Today in Aviation, the first scheduled jet services began at Washington’s National Airport (DCA) in 1966.

The honor of operating the first jet flight fell to Braniff International, which flew a BAC One-Eleven to New York Newark (EWR) and Dallas Love Field (DAL).

Previously, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had limited the use of jets out of DCA due to concerns about noise around the airport area.

Braniff International used a BAC One-Eleven to operate the first jet service in to DCA. (Photo: Jon Proctor (GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html or GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html), via Wikimedia Commons)

Washington’s Airports


However, the opening of Washington Dulles Airport (IAD) for long-haul flights in 1962 led the FAA to reconsider the operations of other airports in the Washington area.

This would see DCA become the American capital’s short-haul commuter airport. On January 11, 1966 the FAA announced that it would allow commercial pure-jet aircraft with two or three engines to use the airport to serve this purpose.

However, the FAA’s position remained that larger four-engined jets should continue to use IAD and Friendship International (BWI) Airports.

Three American Airlines BAC One-Elevens are pictured on the ramp at DCA in July 1966. (Photo: Jon Proctor (GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html or GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html), via Wikimedia Commons)

An Intensive Study


Speaking in their official report on the utilisation and future of major airports in the national capital region, the FAA said the decision to allow jets into DCA “followed many months of intensive study,” in which they “concluded that Washington National could not serve the public effectively…unless smaller “second generation” jets were allowed to use the airport.”

The agreement did come with some limitations. Airlines had to agree that they would limit their non-stop jet operations to a 650-mile radius. An exception was granted for what was known as the “grandfather” routes. These were flights within a 1,000-mile radius that had seen non-stop service since 1965.


Featured image: DCA opened on June 16, 1941. Photo: Carol M. Highsmith, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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Writer, aviation fanatic, plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.
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