FAA failure to notify Capitol of parachute stunt led to alert | National government and new policies

By MICHAEL BALSAMO and ZEKE MILLER – Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Federal Aviation Administration says he is looking into a communications breakdown that led police to believe a plane carrying military paratroopers for a stunt at a baseball stadium was “a likely threat”, prompting an emergency alert and evacuation from the US Capitol.

The US Capitol Police alert to the plane, which was carrying members of the US Army’s Golden Knights who were later parachuted into Nationals Park, sent members of Congress fleeing the Capitol and the legislative building on Wednesday evening.

A law enforcement official says the FAA failed to provide required notification to Capitol police that a plane would circle overhead, setting off the alert and sounding sirens at the Capitol to evacuate. the complex.

The incident was a stunning communication failure between the military, FAA and Capitol Police, all the more notable given Washington’s focus on improving security since the murderous attack of January 6, 2021 against the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blamed the FAA in a statement late Wednesday, saying its “apparent failure to notify Capitol Police” of the pre-planned flyover for the Military Appreciation Night at Nationals Park, home of washington nationalswas “scandalous and inexcusable”.

The FAA said it “takes its role in protecting national airspace seriously and will conduct a thorough and timely review of events tonight and share updates.” The agency said it knew its actions were affecting others, “particularly in the National Capital Region, and we need to communicate early and often with our law enforcement partners.”

Kelli LeGaspi, spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, which was behind the Golden Knights’ pre-game display, said in a statement, “We are reviewing all aspects of the event. to ensure that all procedures were followed appropriately to coordinate both the flight and the parachute demonstration.

Many people who work on Capitol Hill have remained jittery for more than a year after hundreds of pro-Trump rioters fought their way past overwhelmed police, burst through windows and doors and ransacked the Capitol as Congress was voting to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election.

In Wednesday’s incident, the plane, a twin-engine aircraft, took off from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and was circling in heavily restricted airspace near the Capitol when the alert was sent. Radar tracking data shows the plane, a De Havilland Twin Otter, stayed clear of restricted airspace over the Capitol building and other government compounds at all times. Air traffic control tapes capture the military plane coordinating its flight with the control tower at nearby Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Investigators were still working to determine why the event was not properly coordinated with law enforcement officials in Washington, the law enforcement official and another U.S. official told The Associated Press. current of the case. Several federal agencies began jostling officials as the plane circled overhead.

The capital region is defended by several surface-to-air missile sites, as well as military crews on 24-hour alert. It does not appear that any of these systems have been jammed.

Officials believe, based on a preliminary review, that the pilot may not have properly signaled for takeoff or did not receive proper clearance, officials familiar with the matter said. They were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Pelosi said: “Congress looks forward to considering the results of a thorough after-action review that will determine precisely what went wrong today and who at the Federal Aviation Administration will be held accountable for this error. outrageous and frightening.”

The plane landed in Andrews around 6:50 p.m. after paratroopers descended into midfield at Nationals Park, just over a mile from the US Capitol.

One witness to the chaos on Capitol Hill was Eireann Dolan, the wife of Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle. “I was walking the dogs in front of the Dirksen Senate office building,” Dolan tweeted. “People started coming out in droves. They told me to turn around and leave as quickly as possible. Some people were calm, but a lot were really panicked. I know I was.”

Buildings in the Capitol complex reopened shortly after 8 p.m.

Washington Nationals lose the game at the Arizona Diamondbacks 11-2.

Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Alan Fram contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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