The stunt seemed so outlandish that not even his closest friend thought he would pull it off.

“My biggest fear was he was going to get killed,” said Mike Shanahan, 65, of Apollo Beach, who works with Hughes for the Postal Service.

After 21/2 years of planning, Hughes came hovering low over the buildings of northeast D.C. about 1:20 p.m., like a distant bird. He rounded the Washington Monument a few minutes later, flew straight up the expanse of the National Mall and brought his small craft down right in front of the Capitol, where he was quickly surrounded by police and surrendered without incident.

A mailman from Florida landed his gyrocopter in front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in a surprise stunt that saw guards pull out automatic weapons before he was arrested. “I’m demanding reform and declaring a voter’s rebellion in a manner consistent with Jefferson’s description of rights in the Declaration of Independence,” Doug Hughes, 61, wrote in letters addressed to each member of Congress. “As a member of Congress, you have three options. 1. You may pretend corruption does not exist. 2. You may pretend to oppose corruption while you sabotage reform. 3. You may actively participate in real reform.”

The man’s idea began to take shape after his grown son committed suicide by driving his car into another driver, Ben Montgomery, the Tampa Bay Times reporter who broke the story of the gyrocopter flight, said in an interview on CNN’s “The Lead” with Jake Tapper.

“He told us that he felt like his son did something stupid, but he had made a point,” he said. “He learned a lesson out of that. And it was, if you want to make a point, you’ve got to do something big, as sad as that seems.”
Montgomery said Hughes knew he could have been killed — in flight or by Capitol Police.469814248
“He was ready for that. He’s been thinking about this for 2.5 years. He’s pictured every scenario you could possibly imagine,” Montgomery said.
His biggest fear all along, he said, was losing his nerve.

“I have thought about walking away from this whole thing because it’s crazy,” he said. “But I have also thought about being 80 years old and watching the collapse of this country and thinking that I had an idea once that might have arrested the fall and I didn’t do it.

“And I will tell you completely honestly: I’d rather die in the flight than live to be 80 years old and see this country fall.”