Indians Declare Airspace War
A Paramotor Pilot Is Arrested for Merely Overflying Hualapai Nation
Tribal Lands |
Indian Lands for a map of where tribal lands lurk.
Lionel De Antoni
contacted us a week ago after being arrested and having his gear
confiscated by Indians. His crime? Merely flying over their land, even
though he never set foot on it.
He would have been at the Salton Sea fly-in were it not for this
travesty of control.
His flight was not unlike many I've taken. On about January 5, 2009,
he parked on federal lands southwest of the Grand Canyon Skywalk and
launched for a scenic PPG trip to the canyon, following one of few
routes that airspace allows. Even though minimum altitudes were not
required, he climbed and remained above 500 feet AGL.
When he returned the Hualapai police had left their reservation to
confiscate his gear, including camper and camera. That left him homeless
to boot. He whiled away the next three weeks in a hotel room.
I was abhorred to find out about it. We should all be. The tribe has
absolutely no jurisdiction over the airspace and went off the
reservation to arrest Lionel. They have staked an airspace claim over
the reservation extending to 15,000 feet. His citation was indeed not
for trespassing by land, but by airóhe never touched Hualapai land.
Lionel sent us a chart snipped with his flight path and it became
clear that the Indians have fired the first shot in a war of control.
Lionel is looking for a lawyer and I, for one, hope he gets a good one
and that the all pilots everywhere pipe in.
We use FAA approved aeronautical charts to know what airspace we can
fly in, not tribal plats. That's the way it should be. To my knowledge
this is still the United States and, although we grant certain rights to
tribes under treaties, airspace is not part of the deal.
Other media have rightfully picked up on this attempt at usurping
jurisdiction. You can see their articles on
We should certainly respect landowners and sensitive areas by staying
reasonably distant but this is not the way to endear such behavior.
Arresting one of "us" for violating a law that doesn't exist is a
pernicious exceedance of authority. I sure hope this is resolved with
due compensation to the pilot in a punishing way to the perpetrators.
And it sure does lower my view of the whole reservation system and
authority granted to the tribal police. Lets hope it's an isolated crime
that gets quickly dealt with.
Theresa of Show Low, AZ shared this story of some trike pilots near Borrego
Springs State Park. One pilot landed to check out high EGT readings, fearing an engine
failure. Another pilot landed to assist. When they returned to their launch site, a ranger cited them
for flying under 2000 feet AGL over a state park. But that wasn't
charted where they were flying (it is elsewhere in the park)
They contacted the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) who
suggested Attorney Harris (619-713-0720) since he was local to the
citing agency. Although it was no-doubt expensive to defend, it worked,
and the case got dismissed. It came down to the fact that airspace is
under the FAA's control and cannot be usurped by Park Services or other
Needless to say, the Indians don't govern airspace either, and having their
police leave reservation land to cause such misery of a U.S. Citizen in an
effort to exert unjust control is entirely unacceptable. We can all only
hope that strong precedence is set in this matter.