By Benjamin Goad - 04/06/14 03:15 PM EDT
Two F-16 fighter jets were scrambled Sunday afternoon to intercept a plane flying in restricted airspace over Washington, D.C., according to NORAD.
NORAD directed the mission around 12:30 p.m. after the plane entered the Special Flight Rules Area over the capital and was deemed out of communications with air traffic controllers.
By the time the jets intercepted and visually identified the aircraft, it was leaving the restricted flight area and resumed communication with controllers, NORAD said.
"The aircraft was already on its way out of restricted airspace when our jets got up there," said Capt. Jennifer Stadnyk of NORAD's public affairs division.
It was not immediately clear who was piloting the aircraft or whether it had intended to stray into restricted airspace.
"Normally that would be an accidental violation," Stadnyk said. "It didn't seem malicious at all."
NORAD, a bi-national Canadian and American command, is tasked with preventing air attacks against North America and protecting sovereign airspace of the United States and Canada.
The Federal Aviation Administration also investigates any time "a pilot busts any of the restricted areas," FAA spokesman Les Dorr said.
"The pilot could be subject to some kind of enforcement action," Dorr said, adding that it would be up to local authorities, the FBI or the Secret Service to determine whether the pilot's actions were intentional.
— This story was updated with additional information at 4:12 p.m. and 4:48 p.m.