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Report your encounters with Low-flying aircraft on western rivers.

Posted: 08/08/2018
by Nathan Fey

Colorado River - As you may have seen reported in the news, a small aircraft (pictured) crashed alongside the Ruby-Horsethief section of the Colorado River, near the Colorado/Utah state line, on July 31, 2018.  Fortunately, the pilot of the accident aircraft was rescued by nearby rafters and not seriously injured.  However, the crash is a sobering example of how dangerous this sort of flying can be for pilots and other river users. 

American Whitewater has received numerous reports over the past several months of aircraft flying dangerously low along western rivers, in some case skimming their wheels across the surface.

American Whitewater is looking for paddlers that may have observed this (or other) aircraft, flying close to these rivers, surrounding terrain, or people on the river, so that we can share our members’ experience with the Federal Aviation Administration and Bureau of Land Management.    While aircraft are allowed to engage in low altitude flights in the backcountry, they are prohibited from flying within 500 feet of boaters or other river users or otherwise careless operation.   We want to encourage compliance with these rules to ensure the safety of those on the water and ground.

Please take a moment to report your encounters with low-flying aircraft in western rivers.


If you encounter an aircraft on the river in the future, we urge you to contact us with these details (the more detail, the better!):

1.    Did you observe the aircraft involved in the crash on the Colorado River on July 31, 2018?

2.    Have you observed other very low-flying aircraft on this or other rivers over the past 12 months?

3.    How close would you estimate the aircraft came to boaters or people? 

4.    How close would you estimate the aircraft came to the river or canyon walls?  Do you recall the position of the aircraft relative to any geographical features that could help determine its altitude?

5.    Did the pilot(s) give way or otherwise react to boaters on the surface of the water?

6.    Did you record the registration (i.e., tail number) of the aircraft?

7.    Do you have any pictures or videos of the aircraft flying along the river?

8.    Did you report the incident to the FAA, State of Utah, or other authorities?  



Colorado Stewardship Director
Nathan Fey
1601 Longs Peak Ave.
Longmont, CO 80501
Phone: 303-859-8601