Until 1982, Business Opportunities Just Flew By

So a visionary group of regional leaders decided to "do something about Dulles Airport," which was then viewed as a wasting asset.

Thirty five years later, improved air service has helped Virginia achieve significant economic growth. Washington Dulles now is one of the top 10 gateways to the nation, and the global reach created has helped make Northern Virginia and the Washington area America's largest technology center.

Today that visionary group is known as the Washington Airports Task Force (WATF), a nonprofit, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) Virginia Corporation that works to promote the expansion and enhancement of aviation services for Virginia and the National Capital region. As such, its views represent consumer, civic, and economic interests in a region whose tourism and high tech employment is closely tied to the proficiency of its scheduled air service.

The WATF is goal oriented, and works in concert with others in the public and private sectors to catalyze hundreds of millions of dollars in economic return and new tax revenue. Consider some of the gains since 1982 in which WATF input played a key and sometimes-decisive role:

At Washington Dulles, 51 daily flights serving 18 domestic and two international markets has expanded to more than 1,000 daily flights serving 80 domestic and 40 international markets;

300,000 international air travelers expanded to 4.9 million in 2005;
Transfer of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority from federal to regional control in 1987. As a regional authority, MWAA has been able to invest over $2 billion in rebuilding National and expanding Dulles, and currently is investing another $3.4 billion at Dulles;

An "open-skies" air service agreement with Canada—the first negotiated by the United States in response to community needs;

The Udvar-Hazy Center for the National Air and Space Museum which opened in December 2003 after a 19-year campaign;

Ground access improvements including a program to bring rail transit to the Dulles Corridor;

A streamlined FAA Air Traffic Control system that enabled flight operations to expand to match demand and provide more expansion capacity for future growth;

Reopening Reagan National to scheduled air service following the September 11th tragedies.

A groundbreaking "Open Skies" agreement with the European Union, after a nine year effort, to go into effect March 2008. The agreement replaces the current 27 bilateral air service agreements between the U.S and individual EU members, some of which were restrictive, with a single agreement. For Washington Dulles, new European markets can be expected to be the equivalent of a $200 million to $300 million commercial investment in the community in terms of its job impacts, based on a George Mason University study.

Washington Dulles-Beijing service. Even though United Airlines already had a larger volume of service to China than other U.S. carriers, the USDOT recognized that the award to Dulles would provide the most benefit to the largest number of travelers, and by implication, the greatest benefit to the U.S. economy. These were facts consistently stressed in filings with the USDOT by the WATF and by a large number of letters from business and civic leaders, many written with the help of WATF staff.


"Doing something about Dulles" changed Virginia's international reach from being among the worst in the nation to being among the best and enabled significant economic growth.