- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — A single-engine plane strayed into restricted air space near the U.S. Capitol on Friday, forcing officials to place the White House in temporary lockdown and take steps to evacuate the U.S. Capitol.

The episode was over within minutes as two F-16 fighter jets and two Coast Guard helicopters were dispatched and intercepted the plane. U.S. Northern Command spokesman Michael Kucharek says two helicopters established communications with the pilot and escorted the plane. The FAA says it landed at Indian Head Airport in Charles County, Maryland.

Gil Bauserman, owner of the airport, said the plane was flying from Maine to North Carolina. Bauserman said the airport was notified by the military that the plane would be making an unscheduled landing at the airport.

President Barack Obama was believed to be in the White House at the time. The White House declined to say where the president was, but Obama remained on schedule for a 1:30 p.m. EDT appearance in the Diplomatic Reception Room to deliver remarks on education.

The Senate was in session, and briefly recessed. The House was not meeting.

Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Capitol’s alert level was briefly elevated but quickly returned to normal.

Secret Service spokesman Malcolm Wiley said the security measures were taken “out of an abundance of caution.”

Authorities have been on high alert for planes entering airspace in and around major government buildings since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001

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