There might not be a better way to take in the scenery of Washington, D.C., than by airplane. If you're lucky enough to get a window seat -- "lucky" can be open to interpretation -- you can truly appreciate the beauty of our fair city from up above.
Yet, there is a reason why pilots take the scenic route en route to Reagan International Airport.
In August 2012, aircraft operating at DCA began using a set of precision-arrival routes named in honor of those lost on Sept. 11, 2001, and the women and men in uniform who have served our country from that day forward. The routes contain a series of five-letter way-points -- points in the sky through which an aircraft must fly to remain on course -- and together they spell out messages of support and remembrance for 9/11.
For example, aircraft flying the Freedom route from the northwest pass through way-points named "WE" "WILL," "NEVER," "FORGET" "SEP11," while those flying the Troops route from the southwest pass through way-points named "USA," "WE DO," "SUPPORT," "OUR" and "TROOPS."
Not only do these routes honor the victims of 9/11 and those who fight for our freedom, but it also reduces carbon dioxide emissions. Current estimates show that airlines flying these new routes can expect to save more than $2.3 million and 760,000 gallons of jet fuel per year, the equivalent of taking 1,500 cars off the road in D.C. every year.
Think about it as a way of honoring the past while looking toward the future.