Capitol Police backtrack on airplane threat after ordering evacuation

According to publicly available flight data, a US Army parachute plane took off from Joint Base Andrews outside Washington and was circling the area around the Capitol. The plane was part of a parachute stunt at Wednesday night’s Nationals baseball game, just south of the Capitol.

The Capitol Police had issued its evacuation alert around 6:32 pm and said there was no threat at 6:49 pm An all-clear notice was sent over an hour later. The initial notice had caused alarm among Hill staffers, though both the House and Senate are out of town, leaving the buildings mostly empty by the evening.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a statement, criticized the Federal Aviation Administration’s “apparent failure” to notify Capitol Police of the Nationals Stadium flyover, calling it “outrageous and unacceptable.”

“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 January 6th,” Pelosi said, vowing an “after-action review.”

The FAA offered its own statement later in the evening.

“The FAA 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,” the agency stated.

A spokesperson for NORAD, which has partnership jurisdiction over DC’s airspace along with the FAA, said that the flight was coordinated through FAA channels and that nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

It’s not the first time in recent years an aircraft rattle Capitol Hill. In a now-notorious 2015 incident, a Florida mail carrier landed a gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the Capitol in protest of campaign finance laws.

Andrew Desiderio and Oriana Pawlyk contributed to this report.

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