Austin-area 'Gyroplane' pilot talks about D.C. incident

We're getting a closer look at the type of aircraft Doug Hughes illegally landed at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Wednesday.

The "Gyrocopter" or "Gyroplane" is a classic aircraft still being used today.

Dayton Dabbs is a licensed pilot but Gyroplanes are a special passion of his.

"Got into Gyroplanes in 2003 and fell in love with the type of flying that it was," he said.

On Wednesday -- apparently in the name of campaign finance reform -- Florida postal worker Doug Hughes managed to fly one of these into restricted airspace and land on the Capitol lawn in D.C. with the intent of delivering letters to congress.

Dabbs says from the looks of it, it's a very antiquated style of Gyroplane.

"You literally can build them with a couple of pieces of aluminum, a lawn chair...unfortunately...and an engine that's more or less a suped up chainsaw engine," Dabbs said.

The Gyroplanes that Dabbs flies are much more sophisticated. He says the FAA classifies them as experimental aircraft and they cost around $65,000. Dabbs says you can build what Hughes flew for around $5,000.

"If you were to build what that guy had...and as I tell my clients 'I can buy you a coffin a lot cheaper,'" he said.

But how did Hughes get through the most restricted airspace in the country?

"There's about a 30 mile radius which you need to have special permission in order to get into Washington D.C.'s airspace. You're supposed to go through a ground training class, have special endorsements saying that you're legal to go into this airspace. I've flown relatively near by there and it is incredibly tight quarters in that airspace," he said.

Dabbs says the old 'Ultralight' style like Hughes was flying is actually restricted from flying over any congested airspace.

"Were lives in danger? I think probably the bigger question would be 'What has he exposed to the security risks at Washington D.C.?' and what's going to happen based on that exposure?" Dabbs said.

Hughes apparently put a U.S. Postal Service logo on the back of his plane. Dabbs says the postal service actually briefly used a Gyroplane decades ago to travel from Pennsylvania to New Jersey.

"After a year of it, the post office decided to do away with that mail route but this Gyroplane carries the same tail number that that aircraft did," he said.

In order to fly the new style of Gyroplane Dabbs flies, you've got to have some certification.

But he says the old style like Hughes was flying requires no permit or pilot certification from the FAA.

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