Gyrocopter lands in Capitol Hill
61-year-old Florida mailman Doug Hughes was arrested after landing his mini helicopter on the lawn of the Capitol Hill building. AFP / Getty Images

The Florida man who landed a gyrocopter on the lawn of the US Capitol on 15 April was charged by a federal court and allowed to return to his home state.

Doug Hughes, a 61-year-old US Postal Service worker, appeared in federal court on 16 April and charged with two felony counts of knowingly operating an unregistered aircraft, the Washington Post reported. He was also charged with flying into a national defence air space.

Magistrate Judge Deborah A Robinson allowed the postman to return to Florida, but placed him on home confinement. Robinson also ordered Hughes to turn in his expired passport and to stay away from the Capitol and the White House. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

Hughes caused quite the security scare after he landed the small helicopter undetected on the west lawn of the Capitol. However, the man's daring trip was not unknown. According to Reuters, Hughes informed the Tampa Bay Times that he planned to deliver letters to members of Congress regarding campaign finance reform.

"The subject involved in today's incident had come to the attention of the USSS approximately one and a half years ago"
- Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary

Tampa Bay Times reporter Ben Montgomery told Fox News that federal authorities had plenty of notice of Hughes's planned trip. "He sent an email blast to all media outlets, to, to the Secret Service explaining his plan, pointing them to his website and his livestream," Montgomery said.

Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary denied that claim, saying the Secret Service Tampa Field Office did not receive an advanced alert of the flight.

"The subject involved in today's incident had come to the attention of the USSS approximately one and a half years ago," Leary told reporters. "On October 4, 2013, the Secret Service obtained information from a concerned citizen about an individual purporting their desire to land a single manned aircraft on the grounds of the United States Capitol or the White Hose."

Leary said that a complete investigation was conducted, Fox News reported.

Hughes is set to return to Washington, DC for his preliminary hearing on 8 May.