COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) _ The last three small airports in the nation still closed because of the Sept. 11 attacks are reopening under tight federal regulations.
The three Maryland airports _ including one in College Park that is the world's oldest continuously operating airfield _ have been effectively shut down for almost six months because of their close proximity to Washington.
Under the new guidelines, airports within a 15-mile radius of the Washington Monument will be able to start limited operations on Saturday. The airports, however, have to meet undisclosed security precautions laid out by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The regulations apply only to pilots at College Park Airport, Potomac Airfield in Fort Washington and Washington Executive/Hyde Field in Clinton, according to the FAA. They will be in place during a 60-day trial period.
The owners and managers of the airports say they have been nearly ruined financially by the shutdown, which has cost them thousands in revenues from lost fuel sales and airport fees.
``We're pleased to be back in the air, but we also realize we've got a lot of work ahead of us,'' said College Park Airport manager Lee Schiek as he surveyed the empty runway from his office window.
All general aviation planes _ noncommercial, nonmilitary aircraft _ were grounded on Sept. 11 by the FAA, which later prohibited flights by such planes around major cities. Those restrictions were eventually removed, but remained in a 25-mile radius around Washington. That distance was gradually shrunk to 15 miles.
Under the new rules, pilots will be required to file a flight plan, use a confidential code that will allow them to be identified while in flight and remain in contact with air traffic control while flying.
``We wanted to restore private flying in the Washington area as much as possible while countering any possible threats,'' said FAA spokesman Fraser Jones.