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Plane from Westfield causes scare in Washington

A small plane that took off from Westfield flew into restricted airspace in Washington on Saturday afternoon, prompting evacuations of the Capitol building and Library of Congress, officials said.

The Mooney M20C aircraft flew into prohibited airspace at about 1:30 p.m. and was “out of communications with air traffic controllers,” the North American Aerospace Defense Command said in a statement. Two F-16 fighter jets intercepted the plane, and it was escorted out of the restricted area, NORAD said.

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A federal official briefed on the incident said the man was flying with one other passenger to visit his daughter, and he was lost when he flew into the restricted zone in Washington. The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

The Mooney aircraft landed at the Mount Airy/Surry County Airport in Mount Airy, N.C., where the pilot was met by law enforcement officials, according to NORAD.

The pilot had taken off from Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport, according to NORAD. Authorities did not say on Sunday if the man will face any criminal charges or civil penalties.

A spokeswoman for the US Capitol Police wrote in an e-mail that the evacuation included the Library of Congress, Capitol building, and House and Senate office buildings.

“Understand that the pilot eventually communicated [and] exited our airspace,” said the spokeswoman, Lieutenant Kimberly Schneider. “We prepared for building reentry, campuswide,” and returned to normal by 2 p.m., she said.

The Supreme Court was also briefly evacuated, according to a spokeswoman for the court. Security at the White House was not affected, the Associated Press reported.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman said the agency is investigating the incident. Officials with the Surry County, N.C., Sheriff’s Department and the FBI could not be reached for comment.

According to FAA records, the plane is registered to a man who lives in Falls Village, Conn. A call to a number listed for the man was not returned.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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