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Canyon Pilot Plight

Canyon Pilot Plight
While Lionel De Antoni was landing his powered paraglider he noticed that his motor home was missing and police officers were waiting for his arrival. Dazed and confused, the pilot was arrested, his motor home impounded, his powered paraglider with camera confiscated, and was taken before a judge to answer charges of trespassing.

Lionel’s flight path that day took him over the Grand Canyon which in part is bounded by an Hualapai Indian Reservation.  According to Indian tribal law, all aircraft must obtain a permit to fly over their portion of the canyon which consists of the famed Skywalk. According to the FAA their are no flight restrictions over the Grand Canyon and that the Indian tribe is overstepping its boundaries.

During his flight, Lionel was taking photos of the picturesque landscape of the Grand Canyon as he has done often in the past. His photography web site boasts numerous aerial images from his powered paraglider of trips made previously.

Land surveying law in the United States has long been established that each property owner has rights to the land beneath his feet but the rights do not include the air above their head. What makes this case different is the governing body is not one of the United States judicial system but rather the justice system of the tribal Indians which is typically outside the jurisdiction of the United States.

When Lionel was arrested, he was arrested outside the boundaries of the Indian Reservation which typically is outside the jurisdiction of the tribal judicial system. There was no warrant obtained to retrieve the powered paraglider pilot, his equipment, or his motor home leaving one to summarize the legitimacy of the arrest in the first place.

The tribe was seeking up to $25,000 in fines and damages for his flight including a copyright violation for taking photos over their land. Because of the negative publicity, the tribe offered to drop the charges to $500 in fines for trespassing and endangering other aircraft. 

Lionel was allowed to take his motor home shortly after the incident but they kept his camera and paramotor until March 17th.  About his gear, Lionel states, “I felt relieved to have recovered that estimated $10,000 worth of gear”.

Lionel De Antoni standing in front of the Coal Mine Canyon at the border of the Navajo/Hope Reservation.
Lionel De Antoni standing in front of the Coal Mine Canyon at the border of the Navajo/Hopi Reservation.

When Lionel is not enjoying his aerial photography hobby, he works as a tour guide for Europeans visiting the area.

 Visit Lionel’s web site and view some of his impressive aerial photography.

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