Police rushed towards the small aircraft after it landed on the West Front lawn, before taking its pilot into custody. Shocked onlookers could not believe their eyes as the helicopter landed meters from the Capitol building. According to initial reports, the craft was piloted by a Florida man pushing for campaign reform, writes James Nye for the Daily Mail.
Major security breach
The small craft touched down on Wednesday afternoon, its pilot hurriedly taken into custody before the craft itself was checked for explosives. Bomb disposal teams used remote-controlled robots to ascertain whether an explosive device was on board. No device was found.
Capitol Police Public Information Officer Lieutenant Kimberly Schneider stated that “the U.S. Capitol Police is investigating a gyro copter with a single occupant that has landed on the grassy area of the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The U.S. Capitol Police continues to investigate with one person detained and temporary street closures in the immediate area.”
Effectiveness of security measures to be questioned once again
The pilot of the craft is thought to be a mailman from Florida who flew the gyro copter from Tampa to Washington D.C., with a message on campaign reform. The Tampa Bay Times has identified the man as Doug Hughes, 61, and claims that he has been planning the illegal flight for 2 years.
Hughes appears to have been set on making a name for himself, reportedly saying: “No sane person would do what I’m doing.”
The air space over both the U.S. Capitol and the White House is a no-fly-zone, and under no circumstances should an aircraft of any description be able to enter that airspace, let alone fly so close to the President and the seat of government.
Security procedures in Washington have come under increasing scrutiny of late and this latest incident could lead to serious questioning of the ability of security services to protect the leaders of the country. The landing of an aircraft so close to the Capitol building does not inspire confidence, and officials are sure to have many questions to answer.