FAA takes blame for Golden Knights‘ event that caused Capitol evacuation

Construction workers build a border wall in Mission, Texas, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020.


The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday acknowledged it failed to warn Capitol Hill officials about a planned demonstration by the U.S. Army Golden Knights on Wednesday evening, resulting in an emergency evacuation of lawmakers’ offices amid fears of an attack on the complex.

“We did not provide advance notification of this event to the U.S. Capitol Police,” FAA officials said in a statement. “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.

“We value our partnership with the U.S. Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies, and we are 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 demonstration was part of Military Appreciation Night at Nationals Park, which sits about a mile south of the Capitol dome.

As members of the parachute team leapt from a small aircraft and glided down into the stadium, law enforcement officials sounded alarms and evacuated buildings around Capitol Hill as a precautionary measure.

Earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a congressional review of the mistake, which she called “outrageous and inexcusable.”

Officials for U.S. Army Recruiting Command (which oversaw the Golden Knights’ demonstration) said Thursday afternoon that an initial review of the incident showed the military was not to blame for the communications failure.

But FAA officials waited until late Friday afternoon to officially acknowledge the error.

“The FAA is continuing to review all aspects of this incident, and we will work with our partners in law enforcement and on Capitol Hill to share further information and take any additional steps necessary to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future,” the agency’s statement said.

Buildings on the Capitol complex were reopened about 90 minutes after the initial evacuation order. The Washington Nationals lost their game to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 11-2.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.



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Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.