[UPDATE] US Capitol Evacuated

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

[UPDATE] 1-1 7:40 PM--

An evacuation of the U.S. Capitol building might normally affect a lot more people. But it's New Year's Day -- Congress is out of session, and the Capitol Visitors Center was closed for the holiday. So, there weren't many people in the building when today's evacuation order came.

It was prompted by a passenger plane that briefly lost radio contact with air traffic controllers as it headed toward Washington's Reagan National Airport. Federal officials say the pilot had inadvertently turned to the wrong frequency.

Because of concern about the plane, all House and Senate office buildings were evacuated, and F-16 fighter jets were scrambled. But
a spokeswoman for the North American Aerospace Defenses Command says the airliner was able to re-establish radio contact before landing.

The Secret Service says it moved to a higher security condition during the incident, but didn't evacuate the White House. President Barack Obama is still on vacation in Hawaii.

Authorities interviewed the pilot of the Piedmont Airlines flight from South Carolina once it was on the ground.

Federal officials say an airliner pilot inadvertently turned his radio to the wrong frequency, leading the plane to lose radio contact and prompting the evacuation of the U.S. Capitol.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters says the agency is reviewing the "pilot read back error." The loss of radio contact as the plane approached the nation's capital led officials to dispatch fighter jets and also evacuate all House and Senate office buildings.

The FAA said Piedmont Airlines flight 4352 from Hilton Head, S.C., was on course for Reagan National Airport when it lost radio contact with air traffic controllers at a regional radar facility in Virginia for about 15 minutes.

The evacuation order was issued around 1:30 p.m. and was called
off about a half-hour later when the plane landed.

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