Colorado Man Accused of Landing Helicopter in Grand Teton National Park

Colorado Man Accused of Landing Helicopter in Grand Teton National Park

National Park Service photo

JACKSON —A Colorado man is facing two violations after he allegedly landed his helicopter inside Grand Teton National Park. He and his companion were having a picnic along Jackson Lake when park rangers found them.

On Saturday, June 24, at around 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.

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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.