Flying a plane or helicopter gives you a type of freedom unmatched by other forms of transportation. You’re unburdened by having to follow roads and you can always fly someplace for a quick snack. But as one Canadian helicopter pilot found out, touching down in a parking lot may land you a fine.
On July 31, a helicopter pilot from Leroy, Saskatchewan, Canada landed a Robinson R44 down in the parking lot of a secondary school in nearby Tisdale.
His mission? To pick up a sweet ice cream cake from the Dairy Queen next door. This caught the attention of the town’s mayor, Al Jellicoe, who joked to CBC News:
“Well, I thought somebody must be hungry,”
But the humor quickly turned sour as the mayor thought that maybe landing the helicopter in the town wasn’t the best choice, even though the parking lot was empty. At 5 p.m. that day, Tisdale RCMP received a report that a helicopter had landed in a parking lot, kicking up dust and debris. Tisdale RCMP’s investigation determined that while the pilot is licensed to fly the helicopter, the landing spot was illegal. On Aug 4, the pilot was charged with dangerous operation of an aircraft.
That charge is Section 320.13(1)(a) of Canada’s Criminal Code, which states:
320.13 (1) Everyone commits an offence who operates a conveyance in a manner that, having regard to all of the circumstances, is dangerous to the public.
The landing may have also run afoul of Canada Aviation Regulations 602.13 (1):
Take-offs, Approaches and Landings within Built-up Areas of Cities and Towns
602.13 (1) Except if otherwise permitted under this section, section 603.66 or Part VII, no person shall conduct a take-off, approach or landing in an aircraft within a built-up area of a city or town, unless that take-off, approach or landing is conducted at an airport, heliport or a military aerodrome.
It’s not uncommon for helicopter pilots to get fined for making a flashy entrance by landing somewhere that’s not a helipad, and the legality of landing away from a helipad or airport varies between countries and even some localities. In this case, Tisdale has an uncontrolled airport within walking distance of the Dairy Queen.
The charge is causing a bit of a stir online, as some Twitter users are pointing out when police helicopters land in towns to allegedly pick up some lunch. The pilot is set to appear in court on September 7. That ice cream cake might just be one of his most expensive desserts.