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Plane that triggered Washington air alert in '05 does it again

  • Story Highlights
  • Incidents involve different student pilots from same Pennsylvania club
  • Military helicopters intercept plane, which lands in Maryland without incident
  • Investigators believe pilot was on first cross-country flight, got lost in clouds
By Mike M. Ahlers
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Same plane. Different wayward pilot.

A small Cessna aircraft that flew into Washington's restricted airspace Tuesday afternoon is the same aircraft that violated Washington airspace four years ago, prompting the partial evacuations of the White House, the Capitol and the Supreme Court, records show.

Tuesday's incident happened when the plane's pilot -- a student -- flew into Washington airspace at 2:15 p.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration and North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The plane got within 10 miles of Reagan National Airport before it was intercepted by two U.S. Coast Guard helicopters and instructed to land at an airport in Gaithersburg, Maryland. It landed without incident at 2:45 p.m.

Two Air Force F-16 fighter jets on a training mission also were called in but did not intercept the plane, officials said.

The officials identified the plane as a Cessna 150 with tail number N5826G.

That is the same aircraft involved in a high-profile incident in May 2005, when a student pilot and an instructor inadvertently wandered into District of Columbia airspace. In that incident, the plane came within three miles of the White House before being turned away by military aircraft.

Then-Vice President Dick Cheney was moved to a secure location; then-President Bush was not in the building.

The Cessna is owned by the Vintage Aero Club, based in Smoketown, Pennsylvania. Contacted by CNN on Tuesday, John Henderson, one of 10 members in the club, said, "Oh, my God."

"I hope you're wrong," he said about Tuesday's incident.

Henderson said the plane is used by several students, including one who can fly solo. It was checked out to that student Tuesday, he said.

Calling it "difficult to believe," Henderson said, "I mean, certainly this person [the student pilot] has known about our previous incident, you know. I don't know what to say. He's a student and I would think that his instructor would have cautioned him about the [restricted airspace]. It's not like he's not aware of the fact that we've had an incursion before. We've talked about it numerous times."

FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto said law enforcement officers and the U.S. Secret Service interviewed the pilot and determined that he was on his first cross-country solo flight and had gotten lost in the clouds.

CNN producer Mike Mount contributed to this report.

All About Washington, DCFederal Aviation Administration

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