April 19, 2015 / 7:40 PM / 5 years ago

Florida man who landed at U.S. Capitol thought he'd be intercepted

A gyro copter that was flown onto the grounds of the U.S. Capitol is seen on the west front lawn in Washington April 15, 2015. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - A Florida man who piloted a small gyro copter past major Washington, D.C. landmarks last week said on Sunday he had fully expected to be intercepted before he landed on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol, creating a national security scare.

Douglas Mark Hughes, 61, a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier, described his flight upon arriving home in Ruskin, Florida, early on Sunday.

“I had expected to be intercepted on the way,” he told reporters gathered outside his home.

He recalled it being colder than he had expected flying from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Washington, where the sight of the Washington Monument helped guide him to the Capitol grounds.

“People were not frightened at all,” he said, noting that some of the people below waved as he flew past. “I waved back. That part of it was surreal.”

A videotape of his interview was posted on the website of the Tampa Bay Times, which chronicled his extensive preparations for a trip that Hughes intended as a protest to highlight the need for campaign finance reform.

Hughes faces up to four years in prison on charges of unlawfully operating an unregistered aircraft and violating national defense airspace.

He was allowed to return to Florida, but ordered to remain at home in detention until he is due back in Washington for a preliminary hearing on May 8.

“We’ve got bigger problems in this country than fussing about whether or not the security around D.C. is ironclad,” he told the reporters at his home. “We need to be worried about the piles of money that are going into Congress.”

Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Eric Walsh

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