A helicopter pilot from Gunnison, Colorado in hot water after getting busted setting down his helicopter inside Grand Teton National Park for a picnic with a companion. According to a GTNP press release the incident happened on June 24 at about 3 p.m. when park officials received a report that a helicopter had illegally landed at Moran Bay on the west shore of Jackson Lake, inside Grand Teton National Park.

Rangers responded to the scene by boat across Jackson Lake and found the helicopter and pilot Peter Smith and another person picnicking along the lake. Smith, the owner of West Elk Air in Gunnison, was charged with two violations under the Code of Federal Regulations:

Operating or using aircraft on lands or waters other than at locations designated pursuant to special regulations

Use of aircraft shall be in accordance with regulations of the FAA

Each violation is a Class B misdemeanor that could include up to a $5,000 fine and six months in jail

Smith is scheduled to appear in court before of a federal judge in Jackson, Wyoming in August. This isn’t the first time Smith has run astray of the law as he was previously cited by the FAA for flying a fixed-wing aircraft below minimum safe altitude in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in February. Smith paid a $530 fine set by a federal judge.

Not gonna lie, setting down your chopper for a scenic riverside picnic is pretty boss move but not in a protected National Park.

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Grand Teton National Park Press Release:

On Saturday, June 24, at approximately 3 p.m. Grand Teton National Park law enforcement rangers received a report that a helicopter had illegally landed at Moran Bay on the west shore of Jackson Lake, inside Grand Teton National Park. Rangers responded by boat across Jackson Lake and found the helicopter and pilot Peter Smith, of Gunnison, Colorado, and a companion picnicking along the lake.

Smith, the owner of West Elk Air in Gunnison, was charged with two violations under the Code of Federal Regulations, “Operating or using aircraft on lands or waters other than at locations designated pursuant to special regulations” and “Use of aircraft shall be in accordance with regulations of the FAA.” Each violation is a Class B misdemeanor that could include up to a $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail. Smith is scheduled to appear in court before of a federal judge in Jackson, WY in August.

Smith was previously cited for flying a fixed wing aircraft below minimum safe altitude, against Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, four months ago, in February 2023. Smith paid a $530 fine set by a federal judge.

The unauthorized landing of helicopters is prohibited on the lands and waters within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park in order to protect wildlife and other natural resources and to preserve the visitor experience.

images from GrandTetonNPS Facebook