Last Updated on April 22, 2022
The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) ordered an evacuation of the area on Wednesday after an “unidentified aircraft” entered the area. It has since been revealed that the aircraft in question was actually a military plane that was participating in a flyover at a nearby Washington Nationals baseball game. The Capitol Police have blamed the mix-up on an “extremely unusual” gap in communications.
Federal authorities are now reviewing the chain of events that led to the evacuation, which was the first air incident-related evacuation since 2014.
USCP evacuated the Capitol around 6:30 pm Wednesday after an unidentified, single-engine plane was spotted in restricted airspace. The aircraft was actually taking part in a military flyover at nearby Nationals Park ahead of a baseball game that evening.
Other federal officials were reportedly aware of the planned flyover, but not the Capitol Police. “Every week the USCP is made aware of hundreds of authorized flights in the restricted airspace. It is extremely unusual not to be made aware of a flight in advance,” Capitol Police said in a statement on Thursday.
The plane carried members of the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team, who were featured at Nationals Park as part of a military appreciation night.
Since members of Congress are on recess, the Capitol Building was largely empty when it was evacuated. Despite this, the error led to a sharp rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who claimed the evacuation brought members back to the “attack” on January 6.
“The Federal Aviation Administration’s apparent failure to notify Capitol Police of the pre-planned flyover Nationals Stadium is outrageous and inexcusable,” Pelosi said. “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.”
The FAA is looking into the matter and is expected to release more information next week.