Uber offers helicopter service for Sundance; Summit County petitioning to ground flights

Posted at 9:51 PM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-22 17:30:55-05

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah – Uber is offering helicopter rides from Salt Lake city to Park City during the Sundance Film Festival, but Summit County is unhappy and is taking steps to try to ground those flights.

Many people attending Sundance Film Festival were thrilled about the new transportation option, but officials with Summit County said they intend to try to ground those flights immediately, citing a lack of a permit for the service.

“It’s our first time Uber helicoptering,” said Ashley Koetje of Atlanta. “We’ve been on helicopters before, but I’ve never been to Utah. I can’t think of a better way to see it.”

For the first time this year, Uber is partnering with air resources to offer a helicopter ride from the Salt Lake City International Airport to Park City.

“It’s not just an experience, but it’s also actually a pretty good logistical solution,” said Eric Schroeder of Uber Utah. “In just 15 minutes you can be from the international airport, have a beautiful flight right over the Wasatch Front, and land in beautiful Park City.”

The service, which costs $150 if you book in advance or $200 to $250 if you book on demand, has been extremely popular on the first day of Sundance.

“Basically the chopper has been running nonstop, so 30-40 people at least so far,” Schroeder said.

But Katie Mullaly, acting public information officer for Summit County, said they want to ground that service. She said Uber and the private landowner hosting the landing zone needed to apply for a permit with the county.

In a statement to FOX 13, Mullaly says: "The Summit County Attorneys Office is petitioning for a temporary restraining order. At this time, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office is not restricting the landing of the helicopter because this is a land management issue, not a violation of state statute."

According to the application for the restraining order, the county states the land in question is a rural residential zone and that the use table for that area does not allow for helicopter services. The application states bringing in commercial helicopter services is development activity and notes that the group could have applied for a temporary use permit, but did not do so. The document states the group did not obtain any permissions, oral or written, to provide those services in Summit County

The application requests a judge declare the helicopter services in violation of county code and issue a restraining order, as well as a judgment for any costs or further relief owed.

Uber says they believe their agreement with the private landowner is sufficient, and they're confident they will be able to continue offering their chopper service for the remainder of the festival.

“It’s been a very thoughtful process, there have been a lot of people involved to make sure it was a legal process, that it was reliable, and safe for riders,” Uber Spokeswoman Taylor Patterson said. “So we feel confident that we’ll continue to see that success throughout the remainder of the festival.”

FOX 13 has been told the Summit County Sheriff's Office will enforce whatever decision is ultimately made regarding that petition for a restraining order.