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Small plane briefly enters White House airspace

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal aviation officials are investigating why a light aircraft approaching Reagan National Airport deviated from its flight plan and briefly violated the airspace of the White House on Tuesday.

The plane, a Beech 200, came closer than allowed to the White House at 3:10 p.m. EDT but landed at the airport a few minutes later without incident, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Eliot Brenner said.

Violations of the forbidden airspace between the Potomac River and the White House are relatively rare, but in September 1994 a light plane gliding with its engine off crashed on the White House lawn and slid up to the mansion, killing the pilot but not harming President Clinton or his family.

Brenner said the FAA had launched a formal investigation to determine if Tuesday's deviation was accidental or intentional.

He said he had no information on the pilot of the twin-engine plane, which was approaching the airport from Maryland and following the Potomac when it strayed into the airspace near the White House.

The last violation of White House airspace occurred two to three years ago, Brenner said.

The pilot could face sanctions ranging up to suspension or revocation of the pilot's license if the Federal Aviation Administration determines that the violation was deliberate.

"These are pretty rare occurrences. They happen on occasion," Brenner said, noting that pilots flying over Washington were expected to know the correct course to follow.

"If the investigation determines that the pilot deliberately violated the airspace, there would be sanctions involved. If it was inadvertent, there could be counseling," Brenner said.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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Wednesday, October 25, 2000


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