'Slow-moving blob' that may have been a flock of birds caused White House lockdown

The White House was briefly put on lockdown after an aircraft entered restricted airspace.

Posted: Nov 26, 2019 10:12 AM
Updated: Nov 26, 2019 6:00 PM


A 'slow-moving blob' that may have been a flock of birds triggered a lockdown of the White House and caused the US Capitol to be placed on 'restrictive access' Tuesday morning.

Senior national security officials across the agencies convened to coordinate and monitor the situation after the mysterious 'blob' was seen on radar at the Capitol Police command center flying just south of the National Mall, according to a law enforcement source.

Military aircraft were scrambled in response.

Initial assessments indicated that the 'blob' was an unauthorized aircraft entering restrictive airspace, leading to the brief lockdown.

The airspace around Washington is more restricted than anywhere else in the country, according to the FAA, as 'rules put in place after the 9/11 attacks establish 'national defense airspace' over the area and limit aircraft operations to those with an FAA and Transportation Security Administration authorization.'

'Senior officials across the interagency are monitoring the situation on a national event conference call. NORAD aircraft are on site and responding. Plane is not considered hostile at this time,' Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said during the early stages of the event.

But hours after the all clear was given, a defense official told CNN that a final determination had not yet been made as to what exactly caused the event.

There are currently three possible causes being analyzed, a US defense official confirmed to CNN: Birds, an atmospheric anomaly or a drone.

A US Capitol Police source also said it is 'still not known' what happened other than there was 'a big slow-moving blob of something' on radar that caused concern the object could be a drone.

US Coast Guard helicopters that arrived to intercept found no threat requiring further action, prompting law enforcement to search on the ground for a possible drone, the defense official said.

A White House official also told CNN that the lockdown was in response to a possible drone.

But two Capitol Police sources told CNN that the flying object may have just been a flock of birds, given how slowly it was moving and how it appeared on radar, then dissipated.

That theory has only been bolstered by the fact that military jets and helicopters scrambled in response reported that they saw nothing in the sky, according to a defense official.

A US official told CNN that the Federal Aviation Administration also did not see any aircraft on its radar.

However, air traffic control audio reviewed by CNN showed that the responding military aircraft, operated by a pilot going by the call sign 'Blackjack,' did report seeing a flock of birds while in the air.

Pilot: 'And we, uh, almost just hit a flock of birds here at about one thousand three hundred.'

Control: 'Blackjack, you see the direction they're going?'

Pilot: 'Yeah, they're going north, northwest.'

'A trained radar operator should be able to differentiate between a flock of birds and an aircraft, but this mistake is actually a fairly common one,' according to retired Air Force Col. Cedric Leighton.

'How the flock of birds appears on a radar screen can be very similar to the radar 'look' of a small aircraft. This happens sometimes with older radar systems,' he added.

Tuesday's event highlights the need for radar images to be 'enhanced by other sources of information that can either confirm or call into question the radar operator's -- or air traffic controller's -- interpretation of those blips on his or her screen,' Leighton added.

The Capitol Police source said the US Capitol went to 'Aircon yellow' at 8:27 a.m. when the object was first identified. AIRCON is the alert status triggered when an aircraft enters the restricted airspace in Washington without authorization.

It took 11 minutes before the object was in the range that caused the alert at the Capitol to go to aircon orange, indicating it was slow moving.

US Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki said on Tuesday that 'access to Capitol Complex buildings was restricted for a short time' out of an 'abundance of caution' and that the situation was cleared about 45 minutes after the report of a possible aircraft in restricted space.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

West Lafayette
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 71°
Kokomo
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 63°
Rensselaer
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 64°
Fowler
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 64°
Williamsport
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 64°
Crawfordsville
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 61°
Frankfort
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 71°
Delphi
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 66°
Monticello
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 63°
Logansport
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 59°
Hazy Skies Return
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 111505

Reported Deaths: 3506
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion20699758
Lake10217318
Elkhart6368109
St. Joseph604597
Allen5965200
Hamilton4676109
Vanderburgh334129
Hendricks2650122
Monroe240836
Johnson2257122
Tippecanoe221013
Clark211756
Porter205244
Cass19319
Delaware187061
Vigo176622
Madison157775
LaPorte136737
Floyd130361
Howard127563
Kosciusko119017
Bartholomew114957
Warrick114135
Marshall98524
Dubois94918
Boone94446
Hancock90542
Grant88233
Noble88132
Henry76324
Wayne73914
Jackson7349
Morgan69638
Shelby66529
Daviess64127
LaGrange63011
Dearborn62628
Clinton59112
Harrison56024
Putnam5329
Montgomery50521
Lawrence50328
Knox4869
White47914
Gibson4744
Decatur45339
DeKalb45011
Miami4243
Fayette41813
Greene41835
Jasper3822
Steuben3677
Scott35310
Sullivan32912
Jennings30912
Posey3020
Franklin29725
Clay2925
Orange28224
Ripley2788
Carroll27013
Wabash2638
Washington2581
Whitley2526
Starke2517
Wells2472
Adams2443
Jefferson2433
Fulton2352
Huntington2213
Spencer2194
Tipton21722
Perry20913
Randolph2067
Jay1700
Newton17011
Owen1641
Martin1620
Rush1514
Pike1411
Vermillion1260
Fountain1152
Pulaski1141
Blackford1132
Crawford1030
Brown1013
Parke932
Benton880
Union770
Ohio767
Switzerland680
Warren401
Unassigned0225

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events