Updated Apr 21, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Capitol briefly evacuated after "intrusion" by aircraft carrying Army Golden Knights

A tweet shows an alert from the U.S. Capitol Police.
Via Twitter

The U.S. Capitol complex was briefly evacuated Wednesday after what police said was a "probable" aircraft intrusion. The plane was carrying members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights, who parachuted into Nationals Park for an event, AP reports.

The latest: The Federal Aviation Administration issued a statement late Wednesday announcing it's launching a review into the incident — after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress would review what went wrong, calling the FAA's "apparent failure to notify Capitol Police ... 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 January 6th," Pelosi said in her statement.
  • Congress "looks forward to reviewing the results of a thorough after-action review" to determine "what precisely went wrong today and who at the [agency] will be held accountable for this outrageous and frightening mistake."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army said in a statement to news outlets that it was "reviewing all aspects of the event to ensure all procedures were followed appropriately to coordinate both the flight and the parachute demonstration."

Why it matters: The evacuation suggests a concerning lapse in communications between the military and the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP), particularly against the backdrop of D.C.'s focus on bolstering security after the Jan. 6 insurrection, AP notes.

Context: The sky above downtown Washington, D.C., is restricted airspace, and the Capitol Police are on a hair-trigger for any security threats — particularly aircraft-related ones following 9/11 and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

What they're saying: "The Capitol was evacuated out of an abundance of caution this evening. There is no threat at the Capitol," a Capitol Police spokesperson said Wednesday evening.

The big picture: That statement came minutes after the USCP ordered the Capitol and surrounding offices evacuated in an alert that said they are “tracking an aircraft that poses a probable threat to the Capitol Complex.”

  • The plane appeared to have been a U.S. Army Twin Otter shuttling parachutists to Nationals Park.
  • Twitter posts showed the track of a plane circling in the area and photos of parachutists floating toward the ballpark.
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