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Palmer On "Gyrocopter" Hearing: Incident Is A Wakeup Call

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Gary Palmer, a member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, participated in a hearing on the "gyrocopter" incident that occurred on the west lawn of the Capitol last month, and says the following:

"The recent gyrocopter landing on the Capitol lawn was a wakeup call. As it turned out, the pilot was a misguided protestor rather than a serious threat. But the fact that he progressed as far as he did exposed gaps in our security. Congress must ensure, through effective oversight, accountability for the agencies responsible for the safety and security of federal employees and the thousands who visit the capitol."

On March 15, 2015, Doug Hughes, a 61-year-old Florida mailman, piloted a small gyrocopter through over 30 miles of highly-restricted air zones around the National Capital Region. His slow moving aircraft barely registered on radar and was dismissed as an anomaly. The Capitol Police only became aware of his flight minutes before he landed. A decision was made by the Capitol Police not to shoot down his aircraft. Hughes was immediately arrested upon landing, and his aircraft was carefully inspected for threats. Alerts were sent to some members of the Capitol Hill community immediately, but not to others. There were breakdowns in communication between agencies responsible for security of the Capitol.

Previously, Hughes communicated his desire to execute this plan openly. He had been interviewed by the Secret Service twice in the last two years concerning his plans, but was not deemed a credible threat. More recently, he had communicated to the Tampa Bay Times about his plans, seeking publicity, and live-streamed his flight on the internet. The Tampa Bay Times alerted the Secret Service about the potential threat, but beyond the Secret Service sending information to the Capitol Police, no further action was taken.

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