Pilot Who Landed at US Capitol Made No Secret of Plans

Doug Hughes said cops probably wouldn't shoot 'mailman in flying bicycle'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 16, 2015 7:20 AM CDT
Updated Apr 16, 2015 8:00 AM CDT
Pilot Who Crashed US Capitol Made No Secret of Plans
In this March 2015, photo, Doug Hughes flies his gyrocopter near the Wauchula Municipal Airport in Wauchula, Fla.   (James Borchuck/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)

At least two people tried to warn the Secret Service about Doug Hughes' plan to land his gyrocopter on the lawn of the US Capitol and deliver 535 letters to members of Congress. A friend of the 61-year-old mailman left a message with a Secret Service agent because "my biggest fear was he was going to get killed," he tells the Tampa Bay Times. Though Hughes surrendered without issue, authorities were ready to shoot him if the copter came any closer to the Capitol, the AP reports. Minutes before Hughes landed, a Times reporter informed the Secret Service and Capitol Police about the scheme, which the paper learned about last year. Officials said they hadn't been notified of the plan, though a Secret Service agent interviewed Hughes about it twice in October 2013, when Hughes posted about it on his website. The agency says a "complete and thorough investigation was conducted."

The FAA is now investigating. Hughes, meanwhile, believed the risks were worth the reward: the media turning a spotlight on campaign finance reform, which he called for in each of the 535 letters he carried in his copter. "I don't believe that the authorities are going to shoot down a 61-year-old mailman in a flying bicycle," he told the Times, but added, "I'd rather die in the flight than live to be 80 years old and see this country fall." His son's suicide three years ago reportedly spurred Hughes' plan. "He paid far too high a price for an unimportant issue," he said. "But if you're willing to take a risk, the ultimate risk, to draw attention to something that does have significance, it's worth doing." (Read more US Capitol stories.)

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