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U.S Capitol Evacuated After Jetliner Lost Radio Contact With Air Traffic Control

WASHINGTON (AP) — An airliner lost radio contact Saturday as it approached the nation's capital, prompting the dispatch of fighter jets and the evacuation of the U.S. Capitol and all House and Senate office buildings.

Piedmont Airlines flight 4352 from Hilton Head, S.C., was on course for Reagan National Airport when it lost radio contact with air traffic controllers at a regional radar facility in Virginia for about 15 minutes, Federal Aviation Administration officials said.

F-16 fighter jets were scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base, but the airliner was able to re-establish radio contact and it landed at Reagan, said Stacey Knott, a spokeswoman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

The evacuation order was issued around 1:30 p.m. and was called off about a half-hour later when the plane landed.

Piedmont is a wholly owned subsidiary of US Airways based in Salisbury, Md. US Airways spokeswoman Tina Swail said the airline was working with local authorities to investigate the incident.

The number of passengers on board wasn't immediately known. The company's website says it operates 44 de Havilland DHC-8 turboprop aircraft, which can carry between 37 and 80 passengers depending on the model type.

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Online:

Piedmont Airlines, Inc.: http://piedmont-airlines.com/

Reagan National Airport: http://www.metwashairports.com/reagan/reagan.htm

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