Gyrocopter lands near U.S. Capitol; pilot arrested

By Danielle Haynes

WASHINGTON, April 15 (UPI) -- U.S. Capitol Police arrested a man after he landed a one-passenger gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

The small aircraft, similar to a helicopter, landed on the west lawn of the building just before 2 p.m.


Capitol Police closed streets in the area, along with the west side of the Capitol.

The Tampa Bay Times in Florida identified the pilot of the aircraft as 61-year-old Doug Hughes. Hughes had previously told the Times he intended to drive from Florida to Virginia, then fly his gyrocopter to Washington, D.C., to deliver a letter to members of Congress urging campaign finance reform and an end to corruption.

It appears as though his protest was meant to be nonviolent, though police on the grounds were using a robot to inspect the gyrocopter.

The airspace around the Capitol and White House is restricted to official aircraft.

A Times reporter called the Secret Service to notify them about the incident ahead of time. The Secret Service referred the reporter to Capitol Police, which did not immediately answer.

"He hasn't notified anybody. We have no information," a sergeant in the watch commander's office told the Times at the time.


The U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command said they were not aware of the gyrocopter heading into restricted airspace. NORAD spokesman Michael Kucharek told ABC News the military has MH-65 helicopters on standby in the District at all times for the specific purpose of intercepting slow-moving aircraft.

"There was no NORAD involvement," he said of Wednesday's incident.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told the BBC that had Hughes made it much closer to the Capitol, law enforcement was prepared to shoot him down.

"The popular perception outside the D.C. beltway is that the federal government is corrupt and the U.S. Congress is the major problem," Hughes wrote in his letter, published by the Times. "As a voter, I'm a member of the only political body with authority over Congress. I'm demanding reform and declaring a voter's rebellion in a manner consistent with Jefferson's description of rights in the Declaration of Independence."

Latest Headlines