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Uber's Short-lived Helicopter Service In Utah Grounded (ksl.com) 81

New submitter captaindomon writes: It may come as no surprise that the Uber helicopter flights which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival were apparently illegal and quickly grounded. "Thanks to the support and partnership we have with Sundance and Park City Municipal Corporation, we were able to come to an agreement," said Summit County spokeswoman Katie Mullaly. "We are glad to have this issue resolved, not only for the safety of all those involved, but also for the wildlife of the area, affected residents and environmental concerns."
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Uber's Short-lived Helicopter Service In Utah Grounded

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  • At least it wasn't 3D-printed drones.

  • The issue was the landing site wasn't properly approved for helicopter landings. Fortunately, the local officials are reasonable and Uber made an agreement with the County to use the Sheriff's landing pad instead so that flights could continue during the festival.

    From a follow-up story [ksl.com]: "Thanks to the county's proactive outreach, we have developed an alternative landing site for uberCHOPPER that serves riders and accommodates residents," Patterson said.

  • If a property owner wants to allow helicopters to land on their property, why is the government denying them permission? If the FAA allows the flight, how can the county or the city deny the landings?

    Personally, I think the operators doing this should be allowed to continue unless there is some EPA or FAA objection. Local, County and State law should NOT be allowed to prohibit this activity unless they can prove they have standing on public safety grounds. I don't think they have shown that yet.

    • by Sowelu ( 713889 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @05:49PM (#51369731)

      I might have some choice words with my neighbor if they decided to allow helicopter landings right next door to me. For the noise and one heck of a lot of other reasons, aircraft landings affect way more peoples' rights to use their own private property than just the guy who owns the pad.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        by bobbied ( 2522392 )

        Sure, that's a noise problem. IF you have land use restrictions (deed restrictions or local ordinances) that deal with that, get the restrictions enforced using the civil courts. If it's a local law, apply the relevant citations and fines for violating the noise ordinances. However, you don't go and obtain a court order to enforce the law before they break it, or threaten to arrest pilots and impound the aircraft without clearly showing a violation of law. Further, in this case, the county and city must

        • by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @07:40PM (#51370401) Journal

          You make a compelling argument, but you happen to be mistaken. See sections 113 and 114 in this FAA advisory. State and local governments can regulate helipads, via zoning or otherwise.

          http://www.faa.gov/documentlib... [faa.gov]

          The FCC is more like what you imagine the FAA to be. Specifically, as noted in that FAA advisory, the FAA is legally charged with the SAFETY of air travel only. This is in contrast to the FCC, which has wide authority over anything related to radio spectrum. The ATF is somewhat the opposite- you have to certify your explosives storage complies with local and state law BEFORE they'll start the federal process.

      • If my neighbor landed a helicopter in their back yard I would not be worried about the noise because chances are it would take out power, cable, telephone lines, and a few trees not mentioning the damage the falling limbs and lines might do to structures like the garages, sheds, or houses. That is if they could land safely at all.

    • by Lunix Nutcase ( 1092239 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @06:01PM (#51369793)

      Your private property rights don't override everyone else's.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by bobbied ( 2522392 )

        No, but FAA regulations govern aircraft operation from the time they leave the ground until they land. Local regulations CAN NOT over-ride FAA regulations for flying aircraft. That's the issue here.

        You may have a civil case, but you are going to have to take me to court and that will take months. By then, the little shindig I'm flying too will be over and I won't be bothering you anymore..

        • Local government can regulate where aircraft and land and take off through bylaws. For example one must have a permit to build a helicopter pad in most cities. In Seattle one needs a permit [patch.com].

          As for operation in the air, since the helicopter has no permit to land, it would not be in the process of landing therefore must abide by the FAA regulation minimum altitude rules.

          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            For example one must have a permit to build a helicopter pad in most cities.

            This is a permitting requirement for construction; Of course, one could land in a place that is private property where no formal helicopter pad has been constructed.

            Also, it had better not be in a residential neighborhood, or other place, where the noise represents an issue for neighbors.

            • Nope, a municipality has complete rights to restrict where aircraft can land (except in emergencies).

          • As for operation in the air, since the helicopter has no permit to land, it would not be in the process of landing therefore must abide by the FAA regulation minimum altitude rules.

            There are no minimum altitude rules for helicopters.

            • While not a specific height low flying is usually prosecuted as reckless operation.

              • While not a specific height low flying is usually prosecuted as reckless operation.

                It's not correct to say "usually" unless you mean by low flying really really low. The regulations are pretty clear about minimum altitudes for helicopters. Whether the pilot can be prosecuted would depend on things like whether he is flying a multiengine helicopter that can fly away after an engine failure, or operates a single engine helicopter in such a manner that he can safely perform an autorotation if required. Also keep in mind that the entire minimum safe altitude regulation is prefaced with "Excep

        • Your free legal advice is overpriced.

      • You can't run a commercial helicopter business in a residential zone. You can't run a 7-11 there either.
    • My first gut reaction was to agree with you. But then I realized that means anyone can build an airport (or after-hours nightclub) in the middle of any subdivision, there would be no zoning laws allowed. I'm not sure if that's a great idea or not.

      I kind of like the current situation in Texas - cities have zoning, counties pretty much don't. So outside the city limits you can do what you want, within the city you have to be more mindful of how your actions effect neighbors next door. That lets you choose

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        My first gut reaction was to agree with you. But then I realized that means anyone can build an airport (or after-hours nightclub) in the middle of any subdivision, there would be no zoning laws allowed. I'm not sure if that's a great idea or not.

        I kind of like the current situation in Texas - cities have zoning, counties pretty much don't. So outside the city limits you can do what you want, within the city you have to be more mindful of how your actions effect neighbors next door. That lets you choose - d

        • it's actually a very messy situation - airports (certified aerodromes) are federal government objects

          Sorta. Many are Federal properties, but not all. In particular, they accept Federal "management" when they accept money from the FAA.

          Chicago tried, digging up the runways at Meigs Field, but was fined millions for contract violation (the FAA makes agreements for airport funding and improvements, provided the land stays as an airport for X years, usually 25+)

          In Chicago's case, when you accept Federal (FAA) money for an airport, you better use it on that airport or suffer the consequences. Frankly, I don't think Chicago paid a high enough fine. I believe KSMO's problems stem from similar matters. I'm surprised they haven't tried the Mayor Daly approach to airport management.

    • The answers to your questions were already well established before you were born.

      A related question, also answered long before you were born; if my neighbor is operating a helicopter outside my window, why can't I just shoot him?

      I'll give you a hint, the answers are directly related and joined together at the hip.

      • Are you making a "public safety" argument or a noise/nuisance argument here?

        Look, the issue here is the operation of aircraft is the FAA's responsibility. They are a Federal agency and their regulations supersede local regulations in their area of authority, which in this case involves everything in the nation's airspace, defined as from the ground up. And before you try and get smart with me, yes, they DO have a say about your house or the trees or that softball you threw into the air if they wanted to.

    • by godrik ( 1287354 )

      I am no expert in the US legal system. But my understanding is that at any location, federal, state and city law apply. There might be federal regulation and additional state regulation for any particular thing. For instance, in North Carolina, you need your car to be inspected yearly for various regulation check.

      Is there a particular reason operating a flying vessel would be different? Don't you feel it is legal for a state to put regulations on what you can use as a commercial landing zone through the sta

      • Yes there is a reason.

        In the USA, Federal law trumps local law. If there is a Federal regulation and a local regulation that are in conflict, the Federal regulation is considered to be "superior" (i.e. is what governs) if the Federal regulators wish it. Sometimes Federal regulators will, by choice, defer to local regulations, and not pre-empt them, but they have the right (and generally the inclination) to over-ride local regulations.

        In the case of the FAA, they are a federal level organization which go

        • Since you continue to imply this is a matter for the faa, instead of reading the article and discovering the truth, I'll quote you a little something. "The property the helicopters use as a landing pad doesn't have a land-use permit for the activity, which means the flights violate Summit County code, Martinez and county attorneys said." Now for the life of me, I can't see where Sheriff Martinez is trying to usurp the faa's authority.

          So while I may agree he has made a mistake. I can't see why we're talki

      • US law has the concept of Federal supremecy which means if local laws conflict with Federal ones the feds trump locals. However, local ordinances that don't still apply. That said, the Feds are pretty strict on who can carry passengers for higher and have to control flights to ensure they are operated safely. You can't, for example, as a private pilot carry paying passengers, with a few exceptions, such as if they are simply splitting the cost. If you make money different rules apply.
    • Oh my lord, this has to be the best 'screw everyone I can do it if I want to' post I have seen yet. Funny how Uber always brings this out of people. I'm not quite sure if they're being paid by Uber to throw these up and in turn make Uber look like angels or if they are really this uncaring and cold to people around them in real life.
  • In my city,
    there used to be a sign at the public beach that said something (in red circle with bar through) like "No fires"

    Nowadays, the sign says
    "No fires"
    "No dogs off leash"
    "No Vehicles"
    "No smoking"
    and about 4 other things I can't remember, probably including "No frisbees"

    It would be much more efficient if they just put up a sign which says along the lines of:
    "Whatever we haven't explicitly permitted you to do is forbidden, obviously!"

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      Parks around here now have "no model rockets" on their signs.

      Fortunately I know of one spot that is technically a city park, but is undeveloped and lacks any signage, and the person at the city responsible for the parks department has given written permission to fly model rockets there to specific groups when she's been asked. It's annoying that we have to play cloak-and-dagger to launch toy rockets 400' into the air, but at least it's still possible.
      • As a long time rocketeer, I hear you. Unfortunately, a few dick heads who didn't follow NAR and or Tripoli rules ruin it for the responsible hobbyists.
    • Re:Related story (Score:4, Insightful)

      by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @06:02PM (#51369799) Journal

      I don't really see why this is a problem and why you object to it. It follows the usual course of these things. Firstly things are allowed. Then people do egregiously crappy things and that gets banned. Then other people do other egregiously crappy things and they get banned too.

      "Whatever we haven't explicitly permitted you to do is forbidden, obviously!"

      Despity your "lol gubbmint is teh evul lol gubmint" thing, it's really the exact opposite. Things get banned in response to actual problems. Everything else is allowed.

      • Things get banned in response to actual problems.

        Or lobbying and bribes.

        • Yeah that must be it. There's no way people could be utter asshats outside of relations with the gubbermint.

          People never let their dogs shit all over the beach and discard endless fag butts. Nope, no beaches like that ever.

          MUST BE TEH GUBBERMINTS!

          • You misunderstood me. I merely said that lobbying and bribes can be the driving force behind new laws. Think Tesla sales bans.
            • Yeah could be, but it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

              I can't see how someone financially gains for blocking smoking, dogs and vehicles on a beach. On the other hand I can see how people can behave like utter wankers with fags, dogs and vehicles on a beach.

              Possibly there was lobbying to the extent of saying "people are being asshats, can we ban this?", but I don't see that as a failure of the system.

  • What is wrong? Why is it illegal?
    • Most likely because commercial helicopter passenger operations have to be to approved sites.

      One-time flights are usually not an issue, but when you're doing a repeated service, the FAA is generally involved, and government in general can speak up to make your (economic) life difficult.

    • Local residents complained about the noise.... Where I feel for them, I don't think the county has standing to regulate this. The FAA reserves total authority over all airspace (basically from the ground up). They write the regulations, enforce the regulations, and are solely responsible for all the airspace over the nation. The state cannot regulate it's airspace, the county has no authority and the city has even less over it's airspace. All local regulations can really do here is claim a health and sa

      • if the ubers can't land, they could lower to a foot off the ground then throw out a rope ladder...

      • This has not a thing to do with airspace. State governments have total control over where aircraft can land. Landing is not airspace, that's why it has the word LAND in it. This is totally a zoning issue and they were right to shut them down. Helicopters are not nearly as safe as winged aircraft. Their crash rate is far higher than fixed wings and their crashes are often far more violent. They are also very noisy and the wind effects are not trivial (they generate strong enough winds to rip shingles off roo

        • Helicopters are not nearly as safe as winged aircraft. Their crash rate is far higher than fixed wings and their crashes are often far more violent.

          This is pretty much untrue. Single engine helicopters are (according to Bell Helicopter statistics from a while back) safer than single engine airplanes. So, unless you're comparing landing a helicopter in your backyard to landing a 747 in your backyard, it's not accurate to say they're not nearly as safe as winged aircraft. The problem with this is statistics... It's difficult to determine what you're really trying to measure, but in general you are pretty darn safe in a professionally flown helicopter.

          Lik

  • it isn't as if uber has invented some new technology.
    it's business is to break regulations and squeeze out profits by not incurring the costs others pay in following laws.
    this is no different from lawyers/accountants of big corps finding loopholes/book cooking methods to not pay taxes, etc etc,
    by all means campaign to reduce rules,regulations, and taxes(most are harmful), but presenting rule breaking as praiseworthy innovation is not the way to go about it .

    • Right, you'd almost think from the media coverage that Colorado didn't have air taxi service, or helicopter rental generally.

      Not spending time or money on planning and rule compliance certainly gives them an advantage, but how is it new, innovative, or likely to survive eventual competition?

      If everybody did it that way, there would be no advantage. And if everybody tried to do it that way, we'd rediscover why the old rules were established without even having to look up the legislative record.

  • It would have to be via an aircraft (helicopter or fixed wing) licensed to a company with a valid and current commercial passenger-carrying license. Which is to say it would be expensive.

    It's not illegal under FAA regulations to accept money for a ride on a private aircraft, but the amount can be no more than the actual cost incurred, divided by the passengers carried.

    Since a pilot of a private aircraft is considered a passenger, that means (for example) in a flight consisting of a pilot and a passenger, th

  • The FAA regulates flying (aircraft, pilots, airspace, etc.) but state government's regulate their land. The state is the authority on property zoning laws. They can't prevent you from flying over their land, but they can certainly prevent you from landing on it. They can regulate whether you can have an airport, grass landing strip, place to land a helicopter, etc. For another example, some states will fine you if you make an emergency landing on a road (and they will confiscate your aircraft). The FAA onl

  • by clifwlkr ( 614327 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @10:06AM (#51373605)
    Well the issue was actually really simple. You can not just plow off a field in a residential neighborhood, and start running commercial flights into it every 15 minutes. It is the same rules that prevent you from opening an auto repairs shop, or a strip club, or a bar in a residential neighborhood. The only way they might have had a chance at that was to not charge at all, and even then they would be in violation of noise ordinances. You can't just do whatever you want in a residential neighborhood for very good reasons, such as keeping all of the neighbors from killing each other. You are allowed to operate a small home based business, with 2 or less employees, that does not take customer visits (i.e. a store front) in a residential neighborhood.

    If Uber had applied for a permit, or even worked with the county, before pulling off this stunt, they probably would have been accomadated in a commercial zone. The sheriff's office considered allowing them to use their EMERGENCY helipad as a stop gap, but once they thought about it they realized that could interfere with their ability to respond to an actual emergency. I know, as I have worked with the sheriif's office and used that helipad. It is not designed for commercial flights every 15 minutes. The debris alone there can be hazardous on a chopper landing, and we would have to walk it before one came in.

    On the first day they ran, they also violated the minimum altitude rules flying over my house on approach, as they used a loose approximation of AGL ignoring the mountain peaks. I had helicopters a few hundred feet off my roof ALL DAY long. You try working under those conditions.

    The other story you don't hear about is the locals hate Sundance, myself included. It attracts the most pretentious, self righteous, jerks you have ever seen. I literally have had people push me out of line in the grocery store because 'They were late for their film'. Mistake to do to a local as we push back :-).

    Uber blew it. They didn't even try to work with the local government, nor the locals, to come up with a reasonable plan. The drive from SLC airport to Park City is only 35 minutes. It is actually quicker than taking the uber from the terminal, to the helipad, then wait for the helicopter, then land in a neighborhood, then drive in from there. They also could have landed at Heber airport, that is setup for private jets even, and is only 15 minutes away. They were selling an image to a bunch of pretentious wanna bes, and Uber got caught. Blade only joined in after the announcement by Uber.

    The other thing they did not mention that I have not seen in the news is they originally planned to land within Park City limits. They knew the city would enforce every rule on them immediately, and were told so by the city government, so they moved just outside of city limits last minute. Generally, the county is more lenient, but obviously decided it was in their best interest to enforce the rules after that game. Uber got what they deserved, and should now actually be forced to pay a fine as they cost us tax payers a bunch of money for law enforcement and attorney fees.
    • Don't forget that these are the same pretentious people who chide locals for things like driving gasoline-powered cars, while they take a helicopter to avoid a 40 minute drive AND put their massive Los Angeles coal-burning plant in Utah [wikipedia.org] to avoid the pollution in their own state. Now they can run their electric cars on coal!
    • On the first day they ran, they also violated the minimum altitude rules flying over my house on approach, as they used a loose approximation of AGL ignoring the mountain peaks. I had helicopters a few hundred feet off my roof ALL DAY long. You try working under those conditions.

      Not to belabor a point, but if they were on approach, they weren't violating minimum altitude rules:

      91.119: Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

      So, on approach to landing or while taking off, the minimum safe altitude regulation really doesn't apply. At best you could try to get them under 91.13 for careless and reckless, but honestly they probably weren't.

      That said, it seems like what you really were upset about was the noise and that is something that while they were probably legal, just isn't that nice of a thing to do. It is something that the he

      • Actually they were not on landing when flying over my canyon, as I am a bit away from where they were. Arguable, again, as anything is. Given they are a helicopter, they don't exactly need an 'approach path' beyond fly out over the valley and go down. I am up near the peak of the pass where they are flying over to get there. They were just moving along. They hate to go high above there as that means more fuel, so the fudge the AGL as the 'mean' AGL rather than the minimum. Normally not a problem but a
    • Wish I had mod points. Have an upvote sir!

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