A Florida man landed his gyrocopter on the west front lawn of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, alarming security and captivating the Twitterverse.
The pilot landed his aircraft within a few hundred yards of the landmark while Congress’ 535 lawmakers were in session.
His stunt, which was intended as an act of civil disobedience, apparently violates the prohibitive flight zone around landmarks in the nation’s capital.
Plenty of people took to Twitter to joke about the incident.
Let he who has not inconveniently landed their gyrocopter in D.C. cast the first stone.
— Matt Ford (@fordm)
I hear a postal guy went gyrocopter today.
— Bob Owens (@bob_owens)
Can a gyrocopter be used to deliver gyros?
— Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias)
Many of the jokes revolved around the 1981 postapocalyptic film “Mad Max 2,” which featured the Gyro Captain character.
— Mick (@TheXShortBus)
I assume the gyrocopter dude was leading a rag-tag band of survivors through nuclear-devastated Australia?
— Olivier Knox (@OKnox)
Authorities reportedly dispatched a bomb squad to investigate the gyrocopter, blocked off several streets, and placed the Capitol on temporary lockdown, though it was not evacuated.
The suspect has been arrested, and the incident is under investigation.
The Tampa Bay Times knew about the stunt in advance and even produced a video of the pilot-protester outlining his plans and grievances.
They identified the man as mail carrier Doug Hughes, 61, from the town of Ruskin in central Florida.
“I’m going to have 535 letters strapped to the landing gear in boxes,” he said in the video. “And those letters are going to be addressed to every member of Congress.”
Hughes explained that the elaborate spectacle is intended to call the public’s attention to campaign finance reform and to “galvanize millions of people to do a relatively simple thing.”
Ben Montgomery, a reporter for the Florida broadsheet, said that it was one of the craziest stories he has ever worked on and that he hoped no one would get hurt.
Then he tracked Hughes’ movements through the air and provided commentary on Twitter.
“He made it down safe. Arrested immediately. Witnessed [sic] moved way back. Can’t believe he made it,” Montgomery tweeted.
Afterward, CNN said that Montgomery’s advance knowledge and presence raises ethical questions about journalists with information about crimes.
Some Twitter users were impressed that Montgomery landed the story, while others were concerned with its ethical implications and whether he should have alerted Capitol Police.
@gangrey Did you talk to the Service / DC police before stunt?
— Drew Harwell (@drewharwell)
The Times told CNN that it anticipated these questions and “called the U.S. Secret Service in Washington, D.C., to see if they were aware” of Hughes’ plans.
But the Florida newspaper was not the only one in the know for much longer after Hughes entered the restricted airspace.
Other news outlets swarmed Capitol Hill after the news broke.
— Ben Shepherd (@shep_ben)
Some on Twitter lamented that the gyrocopter had been removed.
— Dylan Brown (@DylanBrown26)