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Small plane enters restricted Washington airspace

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, June 6 (Reuters) US fighter jets intercepted a small plane that had breached restricted airspace around Washington, D.C., but it did not appear to pose a security threat to the US capital area.

The Cessna 182 was flying from Philadelphia to Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday, before two F-16 fighters escorted it to an airport in Maryland, said Sean Kelly, the spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which monitors North American airspace.

''Currently US Secret Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are investigating,'' said Andrea McCauley, a spokeswoman for the the Transportation Security Administration.

The incident did not ''appear to be a security threat,'' said one US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

US authorities restricted airspace around the three major Washington area airports after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

All pilots with permission to fly into or through Washington airspace -- mainly commercial flights -- must transmit special identification codes to air traffic controllers.

In 2004, the plane carrying Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher to former President Ronald Reagan's funeral entered the restricted airspace, sparking an evacuation of the Capitol and panic due to miscommunication between the Federal Aviation Administration and law enforcement.

The latest plane scare came just days after Canadian officials arrested 17 purported al Qaeda sympathizers who police say planned to blow up high-profile targets in Ottawa and Toronto.

Reuters SK VP0730

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