Watch CBS News

Who is gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes?

Perhaps nobody was more surprised by Doug Hughes' gyrocopter stunt at the Capitol on Wednesday than his neighbors in Ruskin, Florida.

"It's weird thinking somebody like that, you know, two doors down," the U.S. mailman's neighbor Ian Hopkins said.

"We were so surprised about it because you know he's a good man... he's a good neighbor," another person said.

Hughes is a married father of four who's been flying gyrocopters for more than a year. According to his website, the 61-year-old grew up in California, served in the Navy and became a mailman more than a decade ago. But Wednesday, he chose to veer off his regular route to draw attention to campaign finance reform, reports CBS News correspondent Vicente Arenas.

Hughes' so-called "freedom flight" had been in the works for some time.

In fact, Hughes alerted the Tampa Bay Times last year -- after the Secret Service interviewed him about his plans.

"Terrorists don't announce their flights before they take off. Terrorists don't broadcast their flight path," Hughes told the Times.

Hughes recently admitted to the paper that even he thought his idea sounded crazy.

"No sane person would do what I'm doing," he said.

According to the Times, Hughes' act of civil disobedience began taking shape more than two years ago after his son committed suicide.

His grief prompted him to take a bigger stand on political issues he felt were important.

"We were trying to think of ways to get attention, and it looks like he did that," Hughes' co-worker Michael Shanahan said.

Shanahan shared Hughes' passion for politics, but wasn't on board with his bold plan.

"I told him that it was a very bad idea, extremely dangerous... but like I said, he gets like a pit bull sometimes," Shanahan said. "He gets very tenacious with his ideas and he holds onto them."

Still, Shanahan insists his friend is more patriot than terrorist.

Ahead of his landing at the Capitol, Hughes took to his website writing: "I have no violent inclinations or intent... Let's keep the discussion focused on reform -- not me -- I'm just delivering the mail."

Hughes knew what was at stake in carrying out his mission. The Tampa Bay Times said he expected to lose his job and his freedom. Hughes said he didn't tell his wife or four children about the plan because he didn't want them to be implicated.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.