The contraption that landed on the Capitol’s West Lawn was an ultralight gyrocopter, a cross between a helicopter and an airplane. Gyrocopters are often built from kits and modified. Read related article.
The gyrocopter (gyroplane)
» Cruising speed is about 55 miles per hour. (The pilot told the Times that he planned to fly at 45 mph, 300 feet in the air.)
» Two-blade top rotor is not motorized; air currents turn it like a pinwheel.
It cannot hover;
if the engine fails, the craft comes down softly like a parachute.
» Can go as high as about 10,000 feet
» Weighs up to
» Costs about $10,000
» Fuel tanks hold less than 5 gallons.
» Needs a runway of about 100 feet to take off and less than 30 feet of space to land.
» Engine and propeller behind pilot provides thrust. Most engines are 55 to 100 horsepower.
» Range is about 70 to 80 miles
» Doug Hughes, 61, of Ruskin, Fla. (Married with four children).
» Hughes carried 535 stamped envelopes containing letters advocating campaign finance reform, one for each member of Congress.
» Hughes said he e-mailed the Secret Service, news organizations and even President Obama ahead of time in hopes of not being shot down.
» Hughes is a postal carrier (thus the mail motif and U.S. Postal Service logo on the tail).
» Hughes has flown gyrocopters for more than a year.
» Hughes said he chose the craft because the open cockpit appears non-threatening.
Taking off in the vicinity of Gettysburg, Pa., Hughes had to fly through three flight restriction areas.
SOURCE: Sources: Brent Drake, autogyro instructor and vice president of the Popular Rotorcraft Association; pilot and plan information from the Tampa Bay Times and the web site TheDemocracyClub.org; FAA. GRAPHIC: Bonnie Berkowitz, Alberto Cuadra, Laris Karklis and Richard Johnson - The Washington Post. Published April 15, 2015.