Florida postal worker Doug Hughes was charged yesterday with a felony and sent home to await prosecution, a day after he landed a gyrocopter on the U.S. Capitol grounds in a self-described “crazy” act of civil-aviation disobedience, the Washington Post reports. The 61-year-old advocate for campaign finance reform appeared in U.S. District Court, charged with violating registration requirements involving an aircraft. Hughes, whose midday sortie through highly restricted airspace apparently went unnoticed by military and civilian aviation authorities, also was charged with a misdemeanor count of violating national-defense airspace.
A judge released Hughes pending a May 8 hearing and ordered that he remain confined to his bungalow in Ruskin, Fl., where he has worked at the post office for 11 years. “He's not a psychopath,” said a friend, Mike Shanahan. “I realize this stunt seems totally insane. But he's not a nut. What he wanted to do was get America's attention. And he sure did that.” The Tampa Bay Times published an article about his flight on its Web site before he landed. The paper said that while Hughes was in the air, it called the Secret Service and the U.S. Capitol Police, informed authorities about the protest flight and asked whether they knew about it. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said, “I am deeply concerned that someone has the ability to fly for over an hour through the most restricted airspace in our country, past the White House, and land on the lawn of the Capitol.”