NORAD cannot spot difference between gyrocopter and goose

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Congress had some sharp questions for some of the nation's top homeland security officials on the gyrocopter landing two weeks ago at the Capitol.

NORAD and the FAA admitted there was no way for them to tell the difference between a gyrocopter and a Canada goose.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta says it wasn't until an analyst went back afterwards and reviewed radar records that he saw the tiny dot that was Doug Hughes flying his gyrocopter from Gettysburg to the West Lawn of the Capitol.

"You've got this dude in his gyrocopter flying through 30 miles of restricted airspace," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the chair of the Government Oversight Committee. "Whose job is it to detect, and whose job is it to take him down?" "Sir, as the commander of NORAD, I'm accountable for that," responded NORAD Commander Adm. Bill Gortney. "Why didn't it happen?" asked Chaffetz. "Because we're working against physics sir."

The Secret Service says agents saw Hughes fly by the White House. But it's unclear if Capitol Police were prepared to take him out.

Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy admits if Hughes had been carrying plastic instead of letters, it could have destroyed the dome. "It would have been pretty devastating."

"I'm extremely concerned," said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking Democrat on the committee. "And we all should be."

Capitol Police say they didn't hear from the Tampa Bay Times until about 20 minutes before Hughes landed. But the committee wasn't buying that excuse. "Y'all don't monitor social media? Is Twitter like a new thing for you?" asked Chaffetz sardonically.

The Defense Department is working on a blimp- based radar called J-Lens that should be able to spot cruise missiles, drones -- and gyrocopters. But J-Lens was not operational when Hughes flew in -- and it's still not operational.
But Adm. Gortney of NORAD says the Pentagon is working hard to counter the threat of slow, low, small flying objects. "On a scale of one to ten, it's a 50."


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