Baltimore Mayor Protests Future Dulles Airport (1949)

This is a great story to cross-post with our sister site, Ghosts of Baltimore.

Airline traffic was getting too heavy for National Airport to handle by the end of the 1940s. The region’s second airport was Friendship International Airport (now BWI) near Baltimore. Though it was closer to Baltimore, it still was within a reasonable drive to service Washington. Any future airport development outside of D.C. would seriously impact the economic development of Friendship. So, when talk of a new suburban airport started heating up, Mayor D’Alesandro voiced his complaints. (For those that aren’t aware, Mayor D’Alesandro was the father of former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.)

Washington Post headline
Washington Post headline

Below is an article that we dug up in The Washington Post, printed on Saturday, December 31st, 1949.

Baltimore, Dec. 30 (AP).–Mayor D’Alesandro today asked President Truman to reject a proposal for a major airport in Virginia to relieve Washington air traffic.

He said the Friendship International Airport, about 10 miles from Baltimore and 30 miles from Washington, would fit the bill nicely.

[It is understood that the Civil Aeronautics Administration has been considering construction of an airport in Fairfax County, Va.–Editor’s Note]

In a wire to the White House, D’Alesandro said in part:

“The city of Baltimore will open Friendship International Airport next summer’

“This 3200-acre facility has been developed with the encouragement and assistance of the Federal Government to serve the growing air traffic in the Washington, Baltimore, Annapolis region.

“With the completion of the Washington-Baltimore Expressway is [sic] will be only 30 minutes from downtown Washington and 15 minutes from downtown Baltimore.

“The building of an additional Federal airport in Virginia would at best only duplicate this facility at an estimated cost of approximately 20 million dollars.

The need for better airport facilities has been pointed up recently by several accidents in the Washington area. However, Civil Aeronautics Administration officials have said that the Friendship field would be considered only as a temporary solution because of its distance from Washington.

The accidents that they’re referring to include the horrific collision of a passenger plane and military fighter in November of that year. There were 55 casualties in the crash, including a Member of Congress.

Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., former mayor of Baltimore, talks on March 28, 1961, at the White House with President John Kennedy after taking the oath to become a member of the Federal Renegotiation Board. Mrs. D’Alesandro and their daughter, Nancy (left), are in the background.
Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., former mayor of Baltimore, talks on March 28, 1961, at the White House with President John Kennedy after taking the oath to become a member of the Federal Renegotiation Board. Mrs. D’Alesandro and their daughter, Nancy (left), are in the background.

Well, we know what eventually happened … Dulles Airport was built and dedicated in 1962 by President Kennedy, and Washington now has two airports that are a really long drive away, IAD and BWI. I’ll keep sticking to DCA whenever I can.

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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