US Capitol gyrocopter pilot Douglas Hughes could be jailed for nine years

Douglas Hughes flew the small aircraft though Washington's restricted airspace

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A pilot faces up to nine years in prison after he flew his gyrocopter through restricted airspace in Washington and landed it on the lawns of the US Capitol.

Douglas Hughes, from Florida, landed the small aircraft on the West Lawn of the US Capitol last month.

Hughes, who works for the US Postal Service, was indicted on six charges yesterday, including operating as an airman without a certificate and violating aircraft registration requirements. Each offence carries up to three years in prison.

If convicted, the 61-year-old could be ordered to give up his gyrocopter. He is already banned from operating any aircraft.

Hughes is facing misdemeanour offences of violating national defence airspace and falsely labelling a vehicle as a postal carrier.

According to NBC News, he said that his flight, which took off from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was in protest to the influence of big money in politics and that he wanted to deliver a letter to each of the voting members of Congress.

Hughes works for the US Postal Service

Speaking of the incident which highlighted gaps in national security, Hughes told Associated Press: “We are looking at a case where there was no injury and no property damage, and the requirements as far as what the prosecution is asking for include years of jail time."

He added that the penalties were "not consistent with the damage". 

Bar court appearances or meetings with his lawyers, Hughes is forbidden from returning to Washington. He was also placed on house arrest during a court appearance on 16 April, the day after he was arrested.