FAA says it failed to tell Capitol Police about plane flight

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The U.S. Army Parachute Team the Golden Knights descend into National Park before a baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday, April 20, 2022, in Washington. The U.S. Capitol was briefly evacuated after police said they were tracking an aircraft that poses a probable threat, but the plane turned out to be the military aircraft with people parachuting out of it for a demonstration at the Nationals game, officials told The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration acknowledged Friday that it failed to alert Capitol Police about a parachute jump at a nearby baseball stadium, a misstep that led to a security alert and evacuation of the Capitol.

“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 FAA said in an unsigned statement.

The FAA said it was “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 agency said its review of the incident in heavily restricted airspace was continuing.

The FAA didn't tell Capitol Police that a small plane would circle overhead on Wednesday evening, on its way to drop members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights, who parachuted into Nationals Park for Military Appreciation Night. Not knowing the plane's mission, congressional staffers fled the Capitol and House and Senate office buildings.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., promised a congressional review of the FAA’s actions, which she called “outrageous and inexcusable.”

Many people who work on Capitol Hill have remained on edge more than a year after hundreds of rioters loyal to then-President Donald Trump pushed their way past overwhelmed police officers, broke through windows and doors and ransacked the Capitol as Congress was voting to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election win.

The FAA is being led by an acting administrator, Billy Nolen. The previous head of the agency, Stephen Dickson, stepped down at the end of March. The White House has not nominated a replacement.