FLYING Magazine

What began as a scheduled pre-game parachute jump by the U.S. Army Golden Knights team into Nationals Field in Washington, D.C., is now the focus of an FAA investigation.

An apparent miscommunication among agencies led to a brief evacuation of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday evening after Capitol Police spotted an unidentified aircraft flying nearby in the flight restricted zone, or FRZ, over Washington. Police later determined the plane was carrying the Golden Knights, and that while the parachute demonstration was a scheduled event, their department had not been notified, officials said.

“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,” the Capitol Police said in a statement. The department said it is notified of hundreds of authorized flights through the restricted airspace every week and added, “It is extremely unusual not to be made aware of a flight in advance.”

The Capitol was evacuated out of an abundance of caution this evening.

There is no threat at the Capitol.

More details to come.

— U.S. Capitol Police (@CapitolPolice) April 20, 2022

What’s Supposed to Happen

The FRZ covers an area extending about 15 nautical miles from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and has been in effect since September 11, 2001. To enter the area, non-governmental aircraft other than scheduled airline flights generally have to obtain waivers and authorizations from the FAA and Transportation Security Administration. Such authorizations are coordinated with Capitol Police and other agencies responsible for securing the restricted zone.

For its part, the FAA acknowledged its mistake and says its investigation will be complete.

“The FAA takes its role in protecting the national airspace seriously and will conduct a thorough and expeditious review of the events yesterday and share updates,” the agency said in a statement. “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.”

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