On this day in 1974, Army Private Robert K. Preston stole a US Army Bell UH-1 Huey helicopter and landed it on the White House lawn twice! Preston took the Huey from Fort Meade, Maryland, which is less than 30 miles from Washington, DC. The event ended at approximately 2am local time.
Preston landed on the White House lawn and then took off again after not being stopped. He was then chased by two Maryland State Police helicopters for a short time before coming back to land on the south lawn a second time in a hail of bullets and buckshot from White House security personnel.
Watch: Reporting on Helicopter Landing on White House Lawn
Just before he flew the helicopter toward the White House grounds, he hovered near the Washington Monument and at one point almost rammed the pursuing police helicopter, Trooper Sewell said.
“It put us into a steep dive in a hurry,” the trooper told reporters. “After that, he didn’t try again. He just hovered at the Monument as if to give the world plenty of notice of what he was going to do. I had no doubt he was thinking he would end it all by crashing into the White House. If he had gone there at the start, instead of making such a long, spectacular show of it and hence giving us a chance, nothing would have stopped him.” – New York Times
Don L. Sewell, one of the Maryland state police helicopter pilots giving chase said about Preston, he was “one hell of a pilot”.
Preston was 20 years old at the time and reportedly had washed out of helicopter flight school. Some say his motivation for the escapade was to prove he was a skilled helicopter pilot.
Featured image by Charles Tasnadi/AP