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Gyrocopter pilot took off from Gettysburg Airport; neighbors react

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A small single-seat aircraft called a gyrocopter caused chaos in Washington D.C. earlier today. Authorities say the pilot, Doug Hughes, flew into restricted airspace and landed in a grassy area nearby the U.S. Capitol.

But his journey started much closer to home at Gettysburg Airport, and people who live nearby can't believe that a man from Florida would choose the Adams County airport to take off from. Unlike larger airports, Gettysburg Airport has no control tower. And on Wednesday morning nobody was there to stop him.

The florida mailman had his U.S. postal craft emblem visible on his aircraft. He planned this "flight-protest" because he wanted to hand deliver letters to Congress urging them to reform campaign finance laws. It was a protest he had planned for years and he knew the consequences. A friend of Hughes says this was not meant to be a threat.

"The main purpose there was not so much to alert Congress to something they already know but to make a statement so that America would take notice," said Michael Shanahan.

Hughes told a Tampa Bay Times reporter about his plans and that he had thought of every scenario that could have happened including being shot down by Capitol Police. Someone from the newspaper contacted Capitol Police and the Secret Service around 1pm to ask if they knew someone was flying towards the Captiol. Hughes landed about half an hour later.

But today's phone call wasn't the first time the Secret Service learned of Hughes' protest. The Secret Service received a tip about two years ago and interviewed him. Now lawmakers are concerned that the Secret Service didn't keep a closer watch on him.

FOX43 spoke with a man who waved at the pilot as he entered Gettysburg Airport.

"When I saw that on the news I'm thinking OH MY GOSH! This guy is crazy!" said Mark Brown.

People who live nearby are baffled that of all places, Hughes chose the Gettysburg Airport.

"I'm not sure why he decided to take off from here but this is definitely big stuff for Gettysburg airport. It's not a very big airport," said Jason Howe, from Cumberland Township, Adams County.

They're also curious about his mode of transportation - a gyrocopter.

"I was in the military so I know how hover planes and whatever work… but I don't really know what a gyrocopter is," said Nathan Hawn, from Cumberland Township, Adams County.

Police and Secret Service towed Hughes' trailer from the airport Wednesday evening. A spokesman for Harrisburg International Airport says Gettysburg Airport remains open for general aviation.

Hughes could face civil penalties and criminal charges.