Gyrocopter Jockey Gets Jail Time for Buzzing the Capitol

Gyrocopter Jockey Gets Jail Time for Buzzing the Capitol

Last fall Florida mailman Douglas Hughes flew his gyrocopter into DC restricted airspace and landed on the Capitol lawn. Dressed in his mail carrier uniform, had letters addressed to each member of Congress protesting campaign finance laws. Immediately arrested, he soon pleaded guilty to flying his gyrocopter without a license into DC’s restricted airspace.

Mr. Hughes was dismissed from the US Postal Service for his unauthorized airmail delivery. Last Thursday he was sentenced to 120 days in federal prison. That’s a pretty light sentence for threatening Congress with a … a…. Wait.  What the heck is a gyrocopter?

Invented in the 1920s, the gyrocopter (aka autogyro and gyroplane) is an aircraft that gets lift from an unpowered top rotor instead of wings, and is steered by a tail flap assembly like a small plane. Big gyrocopters are often pulled by engine-powered front propellers, but most are pushed by rear propellers. They can’t hover or take off vertically like a helicopter, but they can feather to a soft landing if they lose power, can take off and land in a small space, are relatively inexpensive, and they’re stable but kind of slow.

Cool. But don’t fly them over the Capitol.


“Gyrocopter pilot gets 4 months in prison for landing on Capitol lawn,” Jessie Hellmann, The Hill


Short link:

Image: Hafner Gyroplane, painted by Howard Leigh. The aircraft was designed by Raoul Hafner and built by the Martin-Baker Aircraft Company in 1935. 

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