Small aircraft lands on Capitol lawn; pilot in custody – Fox News
WASHINGTON – The pilot of a small gyrocopter – believed to be a postal worker from Florida – was in custody Wednesday after evading security and landing on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
The incident prompted a lockdown of nearby streets and raised fresh concerns about security at the White House.
While Capitol Police did not immediately name the pilot or comment on his motive, Florida postal carrier Doug Hughes took responsibility for the stunt on a website where he said he was delivering letters to all 535 members of Congress in order to draw attention to campaign finance corruption.
“As I have informed the authorities, I have no violence inclinations or intent,” Hughes wrote on his website, the democracyclub.org. “An ultralight aircraft poses no major physical threat — it may present a political threat to graft. I hope so. There’s no need to worry — I’m just delivering the mail.”
House Homeland Security panel Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said the pilot landed on his own, but that had he made it much closer to the Capitol authorities were prepared to shoot him down.
“Had it gotten any closer to the speaker’s balcony they have long guns to take it down, but it didn’t. It landed right in front,” McCaul said.
The White House said President Obama had been briefed on the situation.
Witnesses said the craft approached the Capitol from the west, flying low over the National Mall and the Capitol reflecting pool across the street from the building. It barely cleared a row of trees and a statue of Gen. Ulysses Grant.
The incident once again thrusts Washington’s airspace into the spotlight. In January,a quadcopter drone crashed onto the White House grounds, sparking calls for tighter security.
A gyrocopter resembles a small helicopter. However, unlike a helicopter, a gyrocopter’s blades are not powered, with the aircraft relying instead on an engine-powered propeller to provide thrust. Often used as recreational aircraft, gyrocopters have also been deployed in law enforcement.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.