Senate

Capitol Police: No advance notice of skydiving plane that sparked evacuation order

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

United States Capitol Police (USCP) said Thursday that there was no advance notice of planned activities in Capitol airspace, following an emergency evacuation Wednesday.

In a statement released Thursday, USCP said it must make “split-second decisions that could make the difference between life and death” and added the decision to evacuate the campus is not one they take lightly.

The Capitol force stated that an unidentified plane was spotted within seconds of the U.S. Capitol at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday night when they gave the order.

While the Capitol Police did not name a federal agency in its statement, it added that the last time the Capitol was evacuated due to a potential air threat was in June 2014.

“Every week the USCP is made aware of hundreds of authorized flights in the restricted airspace,” it added.

Capitol Police said that “seconds matter” when it comes to life or death situations and said “it is extremely unusual not to be made aware of a flight in advance.”

“As soon as it was determined that we were not given advanced notice of an approved flight, our officers followed USCP policies and procedures and immediately led everyone safely out of the Congressional buildings,” it said.

The statement added that the single engine airplane was later determined to be a military flight by the Golden Knights Parachute Team for military appreciation night at Nationals Park.

Members of the military group parachuted into Nationals Park, located a little more than a mile from the Capitol.

The breakdown in communication that triggered an evacuation of the U.S. Capitol and surrounding buildings has been criticized for causing unnecessary panic.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blasted the Federal Aviation Administration in a statement Wednesday and said the incident was “particularly harmful” for Capitol personnel who are still reeling from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the complex.

She said Congress is going to review “the results of a thorough after-action review that determines what precisely went wrong today” and who at the FAA will be held accountable for the “outrageous and frightening mistake.”

The FAA told The Hill on Thursday that it “takes its role in protecting the national airspace seriously,” adding that the agency “will conduct a thorough and expeditious review of the events yesterday and share updates.”

“We know our actions affect others, especially in our nation’s capital region, and we must communicate early and often with our law enforcement partners,” the agency added in a statement.

The Army said in a statement to The Hill that it was in communication with the FAA about the event.

“After an initial review of the pre-planning and coordination for the U.S. Army Golden Knights flight and parachute demonstration that took place during the Military Appreciation Night event at the Washington Nationals baseball game in Washington, D.C., April 20, we have confirmed that the parachute team filed all appropriate and required Federal Aviation Administration documentation and received FAA approval prior to operating within the National Capitol Region’s airspace,” a spokesperson for the Army said.

“The team also confirmed the pilots established and maintained communication with the FAA prior to and throughout the operation.”

Most congressional lawmakers were not at the building at the time of the incident as both the House and Senate are currently out of session.

Tags capitol evacuation Capitol evacuation FAA Nancy Pelosi Nancy Pelosi US Capitol US Capitol Police

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