Uber for helicopters? Chopper flights resume at Sundance despite sheriff's order

PARK CITY, Utah -- Uber plans to resume helicopter flights at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday in spite of a cease-and-desist order from a Utah sheriff who says he could arrest pilots who land near Park City.

See Full Article

The ride-hailing company's decision comes after a judge ruled that there wasn't enough evidence to ground the choppers during the star-studded opening weekend.

Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez said that he could still ticket or arrest pilots because the companies didn't get the proper permits to land in a field not far from homes in the mountain town. "I don't want to arrest people and take them to jail. But that is an option available to me," he said.

Uber and the helicopter companies say they tried to work with local authorities, but they argue that zoning laws don't apply to air travel and there was no permit to apply for. The flights Saturday are dependent on weather, but otherwise set to take off as planned, Uber spokeswoman Taylor Patterson said.

"We've seen a ton of interest, people are really excited about it," Patterson said.

On Thursday, Uber began offering to ferry visitors by helicopter about 40 miles from the Salt Lake City airport to the Robert Redford-founded festival in Park City. The company is charging $200 one-way during the day and $300 at night, with lower prices for customers who book ahead.

Summit County moved to block the choppers the next day, after getting hundreds of complaints about the landings in a rural field beloved by sandhill cranes not far from homes, prosecutor Robert Hilder said. "It was the people who came storming into Sundance, started flying their helicopters and landing them," he said.

But at a late-afternoon hearing Friday, Judge Kara Pettit decided prosecutors didn't have enough evidence for a restraining order that would have grounded the choppers. She'll take up the case again Monday, though that would come after the end of Uber's helicopter service to Park City.

"There are just too many questions and issues to be able to enter an order today that there's been a violation," she said.

The sheriff, though, says he sees that as a civil proceeding separate from his criminal jurisdiction, and one that won't be fully decided until next week.

The helicopter companies say they did try to work with the county, even striking a last-minute deal to land the copters at a helipad owned by the sheriff's office instead. Martinez said he ultimately decided it wasn't right to let a private business use public resources.

Lawyers for the helicopter companies say the zoning rules are meant for construction and development. They pointed to other issues with the quickly filed suit, including the exact owner of the land the choppers are using. "This case just can't get out of the blocks," attorney David Jordan said.

While some people in Summit County have private aircraft they land within the county occasionally, the Uber flights are commercial and bring more health and safety concerns, from noise to accessibility if there's an accident, Hilder said. Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft have run into regulatory troubles before, but it's less common with the fledgling Uber Chopper service.

"This is an interesting case. It deals with a lot that's happened in the world and happened very quickly," Hilder said. "You essentially have a revolution in transportation."



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Kevin Hart announces birth of baby boy Kenzo Kash

    Entertainment CTV News
    Kevin Hart has announced the birth of his son, Kenzo Kash Hart. Source
  • Charlie Rose 'does not get a pass here,' says CBS Morning co-host Gayle King

    Entertainment CBC News
    Charlie Rose's co-hosts on CBS This Morning sharply condemned their suspended colleague Tuesday after the airing of sexual misconduct allegations that included groping female staffers and walking around naked in front of them, saying that it's a time of reckoning in society. Source
  • China lifts up model who fell on Victoria's Secret catwalk

    Entertainment CTV News
    China's internet saw an outpouring of support on Tuesday for model Ming Xi, who apologized to the country for tripping on the catwalk of the first-ever Victoria's Secret fashion show held in her country. Xi, who was born Xi Mengyao, went down after stepping on the train of her flowing costume during the show in her hometown Shanghai. Source
  • German police retrieve 100 stolen John Lennon items

    Entertainment CTV News
    BERLIN - A cigarette case, a handwritten musical score, three diaries and two pairs of John Lennon's signature metal-rimmed glasses were among stolen goods belonging to the Beatles' star that have been recovered in Germany. Source
  • Taylor Swift 'reputation' sells 1.22 million albums in 1st week

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Taylor Swift's "reputation" is in good standing: the album has sold more than 1.22 million units in its first week. Nielsen Music and Billboard report Monday that the album is Swift's fourth project to sell more than a million copies in a week. Source
  • Rare poster from 'Dracula' film sells for over $500,000

    Entertainment CTV News
    DALLAS - An auction house says a rare poster for the 1931 horror film "Dracula" has sold for US$525,800. Dallas-based Heritage Auctions said the sale Saturday appears be the highest amount a movie poster has garnered at auction. Source
  • Michael Redhill, Bellevue Square author, wins Giller Book Prize

    Entertainment CBC News
    Michael Redhill has won the Giller Prize, Canada's richest literary award, for his novel Bellevue Square. Redhill was named winner of the $100,000 honour at a televised Toronto gala Monday night, the first Giller Prize awarded since the death of founder Jack Rabinovitch in August. Source
  • Michael Redhill, Bellevue Square author, wins Giller Prize

    Entertainment CBC News
    Michael Redhill has won the Giller Prize, Canada's richest literary award, for his novel Bellevue Square. Redhill was named winner of the $100,000 honour at a televised Toronto gala Monday night, the first Giller Prize awarded since the death of founder Jack Rabinovitch in August. Source
  • CBS suspends Charlie Rose, PBS halts show amid sexual misconduct allegations

    Entertainment CBC News
    PBS says it is immediately halting distribution of Charlie Rose's interview program and CBS News suspended him following the Washington Post's report of eight women who accused the veteran newsman of multiple unwanted sexual advances and inappropriate behaviour. Source
  • 'Wonder' star Tremblay, kids with facial differences meet for screening of film

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Vancouver child actor Jacob Tremblay was in Toronto on Monday for a special screening of his new film "Wonder" about a child with facial deformities, sharing it with his muses -- a group of young patients who live that reality every day and helped him prepare for his role. Source