Apr 23, 2022 - Politics & Policy

FAA apologizes for parachute demo that sparked Capitol evacuation

Photo of a person parachuting into a large stadium filled with people

The Golden Knights parachute team parachutes into Nationals Park prior to action between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on April 20, 2022. Photo: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) apologized Friday for failing to provide advance notice about an aircraft "intrusion" that caused U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) to briefly evacuate the Capitol complex on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The plane, which the USCP initially deemed a "probable threat," was carrying members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights who parachuted into Nationals Park for an event. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi later called the FAA's "apparent failure to notify Capitol Police ... outrageous and inexcusable."

  • Pelosi also noted that 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."

What they're saying: "The FAA's initial review ... showed that we did not provide advance notification of this event to the U.S. Capitol Police," the federal transportation agency said in a statement.

  • "We deeply regret that we contributed to a precautionary evacuation of the Capitol complex and apologize for the disruption and fear experienced by those who work there," the agency said, adding that it would continue to review "all aspects of this incident."
  • "We value our partnership with the U.S. Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies, and we are taking immediate steps to ensure that we always coordinate well in advance with other agencies to avoid confusion over future aviation events in the Washington, D.C., area."

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

  • The U.S. Army said in a statement after the incident 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."
  • Pelosi said Congress would also review what went wrong.
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