A helicopter made a surprise landing on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, stunning law enforcement and tourists, but not the people of Ruskin, Florida. A resident there has claimed responsibility for the stunt – after two years of planning. The purpose? To draw attention to campaign finance reform.
Before he took flight, mailman Doug Hughes contacted a Tampa Bay Times reporter to say he was delivering 535 letters to members of Congress, ABC News reported.
“I have got a plane, a gyro-plane. And I’m going to fly it, I’m going to violate the no-fly zone, non-violently,” Hughes said a video posted online Wednesday. “I’m going to land on the Capitol Mall.”
According to witnesses, the U.S Capitol landing was quite spectacular. The pilot directed his helicopter to the Capitol from the west, flew over the National Mall and Capitol, grazing trees and Gen. Ulysses Grant.
After he landed, Doug was promptly arrested – you can’t just land a helicopter at the U.S. Capitol and get away with it. He surrendered without incident, the Times added, and the FBI is on scene, checking out his helicopter with dogs.
But the stunt could’ve ended with a lot more drama if the helicopter had come any closer to the U.S. Capitol – officials said they were prepared to shoot it down, the Associated Press added. And he seemed to recognize that his helicopter stunt was a dangerous one in an interview with the Times.
— WUSA9 (@wusa9) April 15, 2015
“I have thought about walking away from this whole thing because it’s crazy. But I have also thought about being 80 years old and watching the collapse of this country and thinking that I had an idea once that might have arrested the fall and I didn’t do it.”
Well, Hughes certainly has everyone’s attention – any government building in D.C. is a pretty decent stage for a political message, the U.S. Capitol especially. And the one behind this stunning helicopter landing: campaign finance reform and government corruption.
“The issue is important enough to defy the no-fly zone and risk life and limb, and my freedom in pursuit of an honest government that represents the people,” Hughes said.
Now that he’s in custody, the million dollar question is: How did he manage to evade Washington D.C.’s restricted air space to land on the Capitol front lawn in a helicopter? But Hughes insisted that the aircraft – called a gyrocopter, which has room for only one person – isn’t a 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.”
Check out his website for more info about his political message.
[Photo Courtesy Alex Wong/Getty Images]