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Nerves rattled by military jets over Capitol

Flights part of recruitment campaign


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September 11 attacks

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The sight of military jets flying low over the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall rattled some nerves Tuesday.

Local radio and television stations reported getting worried calls from residents asking about the jets, which were part of a military publicity and recruitment campaign.

Capt. Sheldon Smith, a spokesman for the D.C. Air National Guard, apologized and promised such flights would be publicized better in the future.

The flights involved two F-16 warplanes and military versions of the 737 jetliner and Gulfstream corporate-style jet, all based at Andrews Air Force Base.

"We are the protectors of the U.S. Capitol, and we want to tell the community we are here," a spokesman for the 113th Air Wing of the D.C. Air National Guard, which staged the flyovers, said before the event.

The flyovers required special permission from the Federal Aviation Administration. Flights over the nation's capital have been severely restricted since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. One of four hijacked commercial jets slammed into the Pentagon that day.

Smith expressed surprise when told some witnesses said they were taken by surprise and had thought of 9/11 upon seeing the military jets.

"We always have planes in the air; people should be used to seeing F-16s in the air above Washington," he said. "But we apologize for any alarm."

The 113th Air Wing said the the publicity campaign would include photographs and video taken of the Tuesday flight, possibly including views from both the ground and the air.

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