Lunes 1 de Julio de 2002, Ip nš 18

Plane prompts White House evacuation
About 15 minutes after the evacuation, an "all clear" was issued, allowing authorized personnel back in. Early indications were that it was an accidental violation of the restricted airspace, but the pilot was being questioned about what transpired.

Government officials said two F-16s were scrambled out of Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland about 8:30 p.m. EDT when the plane entered the restricted airspace, about four miles northeast of the White House.

FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the plane didn't violate White House airspace, but "it did violate airspace over Washington," which requires pilots not to fly below 18,000 feet.

"Our controllers at National Airport noticed he was in violation and immediately notified the other government agencies, including NORAD," she said.

At one point, the pilot contacted the FAA's Leesburg Flight Service Station for a weather update, but the station immediately "put him in touch" with NORAD, Brown said.

"At no time did he go below 10,500 feet. He was not descending toward the White House. He maintained a steady course. There was no indication he was trying to deviate from his course," she said.

The fighter jets escorted the plane, a Cessna 182, to Byrd Airport in Richmond, Virginia, where it landed shortly before 9 p.m., according to Troy Bell, a spokesman for the airport's police department. The plane was destined for Raleigh, North Carolina. Bell said the flight had originated in Gardner, Massachusetts.

The pilot and a passenger were taken into custody for questioning by federal authorities, Bell said. Their names and ages are being withheld by the FBI, which is handling the investigation.

No weapons or suspicious materials were found aboard the plane, the spokesman said.

The incident came a short time after President Bush returned to the White House from a Republican fund-raising dinner. Bush did not leave the grounds, officials said.

Agents were prepared to escort the president and first lady to secure bunkers beneath the White House, but the situation was resolved before that step was considered necessary, Secret Service and administration sources said.

These sources said a review of radar and other tracking data was under way but that early indications were that the plane briefly crossed into the restricted airspace.


  20/06/2002. CNN.