The pilot of a balloon carrying six passengers that landed in Grand Teton National Park in July is facing Class B misdemeanor charges under the Code of Federal Regulations.
As reported by a local Wyoming news source, Richard Glas told a court an unexpected wind shift took him into the Jackson Hole Airport airspace. Glas said an aircraft operations specialist directed him to land immediately, which resulted in a citation by federal park employees.
Federal law states “the landing of aircraft is prohibited on lands or waters administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or U.S. Forest Service without authorization from the respective agency.” Penalties can include up to six months in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.
In his filing, Glas claimed he was forced to land by external circumstances and the federal government has not proved that he was “using” or “operating” the balloon within the national park—noting that he had stopped using it when the balloon touched down.
The filing also argued that helicopters and aircraft have a greater ability to avoid unauthorized landings than hot air balloons that lack power and steering.
Glas is being tried by a judge alone and the outcome hasn’t been announced.
An earlier story said Glas was facing criminal charges but they are, in fact, Class B misdemeanor charges.