The FAA’s failure to notify Capitol Police of the parachute stunt during the Nationals game led to the alert
The Federal Aviation Administration’s failure to notify Capitol police of a parachute jump at a nearby baseball stadium led to an emergency alert and evacuation of the U.S. Capitol, a law enforcement official said Thursday. laws. The FAA said it was reviewing the communications outage.
The police alert to the plane, which was carrying members of the US Army’s Golden Knights who were later parachuted into the national park for the military appreciation night, sent congressional staffers fleeing the Capitol and Legislative Buildings 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 communications failure, all the more remarkable given Washington’s focus on improving security since the deadly January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by supporters of the President of the time, Donald Trump.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., promised a congressional review of the FAA’s “apparent failure,” which she called “outrageous and inexcusable.”
Capitol Police on Thursday called the decision not to alert the force “extremely unusual” and said officers followed policies and procedures necessary to ensure the safety of congressional staff.
“The United States Capitol Police must make split-second decisions that could mean the difference between life and death,” the Capitol Police statement read. “The decision to evacuate the campus is not a decision we take lightly.”
In an overnight statement, the FAA said it “takes its role in protecting national airspace seriously and will conduct a thorough and prompt 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, in a statement late Wednesday, said: “Congress looks forward to considering the results of a comprehensive after-action review that will determine precisely what went wrong today and who at the Federal Aviation Administration , will be held accountable for this outrageous and chilling mistake.”
The plane landed in Andrews around 6.50pm after the paratroopers descended into the middle of the Nationals Park lot, 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 en masse at the same time. 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.
The Washington Nationals lost the game to the Arizona Diamondbacks 11-2.