Washington (CNN)The manned gyrocopter that landed on the Capitol grounds earlier this month was picked up by government sensors set up to protect the capital from air threats, the top commander of North American air defense said Wednesday.
Gyrocopter was detected, NORAD chief says
The gyrocopter "was detected by several of the integrated sensors" as it headed for the Capitol building, but couldn't be identified as a manned aircraft and potential threat, Adm. William Gortney, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, wrote in testimony for the House oversight committee.
"The aircraft's flight parameters fell below the threshold necessary to differentiate aircraft from weather, terrain, birds, and other slow flying objects so as to ensure that the systems and those operating them focus on that which poses the greatest threat," Gortney wrote in a part of his statement that he did not read during the hearing Thursday.
He said Thursday before the committee that small aircraft like gyrocopters present "a technical challenge" for officials tasked with identifying and intercepting potential threats to the nation's capital.
Gortney stressed that the military is "extremely capable of identifying and tracking" larger threats as small as single-propeller aircraft like Cessnas.
Florida mailman Douglas Mark Hughes, 61, put Congress on lockdown earlier this month when he landed the single-man gyrocopter on Capitol grounds earlier this month. The stunt was a protest of campaign finance laws.
The House oversight committee on Wednesday morning began hearing testimony from top military, law enforcement and other government officials tasked with keeping potential threats to the capital at bay, but recessed after brief opening statements to hear the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe address Congress.
The committee will resume its hearing Wednesday afternoon.