Gyrocopter pilot charged for U.S. Capitol stunt

By Danielle Haynes

WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) -- A 61-year-old Florida man who landed a gyrocopter on the U.S. Capitol lawn was charged in federal court Thursday and released from custody.

Doug Hughes, of Ruskin, Fla., was charged with one count of knowingly operating an aircraft not properly registered and one county of violating national air defense space.


The charges came one day after he was arrested for flying his gyrocopter from Virginia to Washington, D.C., in order to deliver letters about campaign finance and government corruption to members of Congress.

It appeared as though his protest was meant to be nonviolent, though police on the ground used a robot to inspect the gyrocopter.

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

A Tampa Bay Times reporter who interviewed Hughes about his plan 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 newspaper 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.


Hughes was released on his own recognizance on a number of conditions, including GPS monitoring, weekly check-ins in Tampa, Fla., stay-away orders at certain sites in the District, and a ban on operating a flying vehicle.

Should he be convicted of the charges, Hughes faces four years in prison.

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