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Don’t Do This with Your Helicopter


Houseboat on Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. When you hear the whirlybird, clear the deck. Photo by mommy peace via Flickr.

On Friday, June 12, rangers on patrol at a large wakeboard competition in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area observed a helicopter hover near an assortment of beached houseboats, ski boats, jet skis, several dozen swimmers, and about 100 spectators along the shoreline. Several passengers jumped into the water from the helicopter. Then the helicopter landed atop a houseboat.

Ranger Jared St. Clair subsequently questioned the pilot, a 33-year old man operating his chopper out of St. George, Utah, and arrested him for illegal air delivery of passengers and creating a hazardous condition. This gentleman had run afoul of the provisions of Title 36 CFR 2.17 Aircraft and air delivery, which specify in part (a)(3) that, in the context of our national parks, prohibited activities include:

Delivering or retrieving a person or object by parachute, helicopter, or other airborne means, except in emergencies involving public safety or serious property loss, or pursuant to the terms and conditions of a permit.

This was not the pilot’s first brush with the park’s LEO’s. Since receiving an initial warning in 2003, he has received four (as in F-O-U-R) citations for improperly operating his helicopter in the park. Two of these citations were received as recently as last year.

Glen Canyon’s Chief Ranger, Brent McGinn, told me that the chopper pilot has been doing the houseboat landing thing as a means of skirting the ban on ground landings in the park. In the process, he has annoyed a lot of other park visitors. (Have you ever seen a helicopter that could be landed without creating quite a stir?) “We're getting lots of calls on this guy,” ranger McGinn explained, “He is not at all popular with our other visitors.”

When hauled before a federal magistrate to answer for the most recent charges, the chopper pilot entered a plea of not guilty. No trial date has been set yet.


How come this outrageous maniac of a helicopter pilot hasn't had his flying license revoked? He is endangering the public, and may eventually injure or kill someone. He obviosly has no respect for the rights or the lives of other people, or for common sense laws. His continued violations, even after previous warnings and citations, proves that he has no intention of abiding by the law, and will continue to break it whenever he feels like it. He must have his license to fly revoked, and his helicopter should be seized and sold to pay for court costs.

If it's an "experimental" Helicopter, something he built himself, often from a kit, no license may be required to operate it. I say turn the park area into an open Skeet Shooting area and let everyone take a shot or two at him. He'll change his habits quickly.

This pilot is licensed, TD, and his helicopter is not a kit-built aircraft.

That this idiot has been given so much slack by the authorities at Glen Canyon is amazing, considering what would have happened if he'd been caught doing something else, like picking wildflowers or carving his initials into the sandstone.

He seems to be having a grand old time thumbing his nose at Ranger McGinn while making himself a danger to the visiting public. Talk about an agency with its hands tied behind its back.

Well considering that this time he was handcuffed and hauled to the was he with his hands tied behind his back. Hard to thumb your nose in that circumstance. Which - it appears - was completely appropriate. When you are that wealthy some tickets really have no effect. Maybe this time the4 Magistrate will apply a little learnin'?

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