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Helicopter pilot cited after landing in Grand Teton National Park

Pilot and companion found picnicking on lake shore
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Posted at 11:30 AM, Jul 10, 2023

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK - A helicopter pilot from Colorado was cited after he landed an aircraft inside Grand Teton National Park and was found picnicking with a companion.

Park officials said in a press release issued Monday the incident happened on June 24 at about 3 p.m. when park law enforcement 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, Colo., 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 six months in jail.

Smith is scheduled to appear in court before of a federal judge in Jackson, Wyo. in August, the press release states.

Smith was previously cited for flying a fixed-wing aircraft below minimum safe altitude, against Federal Aviation Administration regulations in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in February. 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, the press release states.