FAA hints at charges for gyrocopter pilot

FAA hints at charges for gyrocopter pilot

The Federal Aviation Administration is hinting at criminal charges for a gyrocopter pilot who flew into restricted airspace and landed on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

"The FAA is working with its aviation security partners in the DC area to investigate an incident involving an aircraft that landed on the west lawn of the Capitol this afternoon," the agency said in a statement released on Wednesday afternoon. 

“The pilot was not in contact with FAA air traffic controllers and the FAA did not authorize him to enter restricted airspace,” the FAA statement continued. “Airspace security rules that cover the Capitol and the District of Columbia prohibit private aircraft flights without prior coordination and permission. Violators may face civil and criminal penalties.” 

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The alleged pilot of the gyrocopter, Doug Hughes, is a postal worker from Florida who wanted to make a statement about campaign finance reform by delivering letters to Congress.

Hughes, 61, had warned on Wednesday that he would fly his small gyrocopter to the Capitol to deliver letters in person to lawmakers to demand that they take up campaign finance reform. 

The landing of the gyrocopter triggered a brief lockdown at the Capitol while new raising questions about security around the complex.

The gyrocopter set down on the lawn shortly after 1 p.m. It appeared to be adorned with the logo of the U.S. Postal Service. 

Reporters and security personnel flocked to the scene, and police later said the pilot of the aircraft had been arrested.

— David McCabe and Vicki Needham contributed to this report.