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A gyrocopter invades the Capitol

canstockphoto19340168From the FAA: “The FAA is working with its aviation security partners in the DC area to investigate an incident involving an aircraft that landed on the west lawn of the Capitol this afternoon. The pilot was not in contact with FAA air traffic controllers and the FAA did not authorize him to enter restricted airspace. Airspace security rules that cover the Capitol and the District of Columbia prohibit private aircraft flights without prior coordination and permission. Violators may face civil and criminal penalties.”

From Me: the question may arise, why didn’t the Secret Service or US Capitol police shoot this guy down (let’s just assume they have that capability). There are a variety of reasons. First, they likely saw the Tweets and pre-event publicity from the guy saying he was going to do it, then investigated him without his knowledge and came to the conclusion that he’s not a threat to national security (but is a threat to common sense), and decided that if he tries it, they will arrest him.

Or, they decided that the minimal damage the White House or Capitol may incur when it’s hit by a gyrocopter is less of a risk than sending ordinance into the skies over the National Mall.

The next question: but what if he was carrying explosives? He’s not going to be carrying that much, but the answer is the same. Let’s assume he could be – is it enough explosives to do considerable damage? A gyrocopter can barely carry the passenger much less a lot of extra weight, and you’re going to need some serious explosives to do enough damage to the White House or Capitol, or other facilities in the vicinity, to the point where it could endanger the President or members of Congress.

It’s good to remember that the purpose of the Secret Service is first to protect the President and if he isn’t there when the “attack” happens, then it’s a matter of protecting the facility. The US Capitol police and the national military command is responsible for protecting the facilities around Washington DC. Again, same question – is it worth launching bullets and possibly Stinger missiles at a gyrocopter that can only do minimal damage to the building, compared to all that material being fired around the city? Remember during the first Gulf War that a lot of the damage to Baghdad was from Iraq’s own surface to air defenses firing metal into the skies and then landing back in the city.

And to address the truly outlandish – but Jeff, what if he had a backpack nuke!!! Well then, if you’ve somehow got your hands on something like this, why select something that’s inherently unstable to try to deliver it, particularly when you don’t have to get that close for it to be effective? Try a Prius, I hear they have a nice ride and you don’t have to dodge missiles to deliver it.

In 1994, Frank Corder flew a Cessna 150 onto the White House lawn and clipped the edge of the building. In 2001, we saw the White House and US Capitol as possible targets during the 9/11 attacks. We have strict restrictions and intercept procedures for airplanes – should we worry about gyrocopters?

Frankly, I think what you need to worry about are UAV’s, particularly when the President is around. And I’d hazard a guess that if POTUS had been outside when the gyrocopter breached the outer perimeters of the Secret Service’s protection ring, there’s a chance it would have been fired upon, particularly if they couldn’t immediately get the President to safety.

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