U.S. Capitol Evacuated After Stunt Plane Enters Restricted Zone
An “all clear” was issued shortly afterward when it turned out the aircraft was taking part in a parachute landing.
(Bloomberg) -- Police ordered a brief emergency evacuation of the U.S. Capitol and surrounding office buildings Wednesday night after a small plane breached a protected security zone.
An “all clear” was issued shortly afterward when it turned out the aircraft was taking part in a parachute landing before a game between Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Nationals Park on the Washington waterfront, according to a police official.
The U.S. Capitol Police evacuation alert went out at 6:32 p.m. The all-clear was officially announced shortly after 8 p.m. and the Capitol re-opened.
Most aircraft flying below 18,000 feet are prohibited from entering a circle about 15 miles from the Capitol. Pilots wishing to come within 30 miles of Washington must give notification to air-traffic controllers and have equipment that allows radars to track them.
Congress is not in session this week. The episode occurred as a House committee continues to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement that the FAA’s “apparent failure to notify the Capitol Police of the pre-planned flyover Nationals Stadium is outrageous and inexcusable.”
“The unnecessary panic caused by this apparent negligence was particularly harmful for members, staff and institutional workers still grappling with the trauma of the attack on their workplace on Jan. 6th,” Pelosi said.
She added that “Congress looks forward to reviewing the results of a thorough after-action review that determines what precisely went wrong today and who at the Federal Aviation Administration will be held accountable for this outrageous and frightening mistake.”
In a statement released hours after the episode, the FAA said that it “takes its role in protecting the national airspace seriously and will conduct a thorough and expeditious review of the events this evening and share updates. We know our actions affect others, especially in our nation’s capital region, and we must communicate early and often with our law enforcement partners.”
In 2015, a former postal worker from Florida managed to land a gyrocopter on the grounds of the Capitol in what he said was a protest of the corruption of money in politics. He pleaded guilty to flying without an airman’s certificate, and was sentenced to four months in prison.
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