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Sun, Jun 04, 2006

Powered Paraglider Flight Lands Pilot In UT Court

Early Morning Sojourn Irks Locals

A powered paraglider pilot has been charged with a misdemeanor and disorderly conduct for flying too close to Interstate 15 near Draper, UT.

Dell Schanze, a former computer business owner familiar to many locals as "Super Dell," was cited after making an early morning flight on May 24 near I-15 that "alarmed" witnesses who alerted local police, according to the Deseret Morning News.

"How is flying this paraglider near I-15 different from a 'person riding a horse with a pink shirt and lights' next to I-15 or police cars with their red and blue lights on that have pulled over other vehicles?" pilot Schanze said.

Draper police Sgt. Gerry Allred said detectives gathered numerous statements from witnesses who said they were "afraid there might be a crash" after observing the low-flying, yellow-winged paraglider with a giant "S" on it.

The former owner of a computer business was charged with creating a public nuisance, a class B misdemeanor, and disorderly conduct, an infraction.

He is accused of flying his powered paraglider over and around I-15 during morning rush hour on May 24 and flying low through congested areas along the sides of I-15.

 "Are they trying to say I broke the law or they hate me?" Schanze asked after receiving his court summons. "I can't imagine the sheer ignorance of such (charges)."

Allred said Draper police met with the Utah Highway Patrol and FAA officials for a week before deciding what charges to file. The FAA is also considering its own charges, Allred said.

Schanze called the Draper Police Department "ignorant, incompetent," "a disgrace to the nation" and "a bunch of monkeys that don't even use their heads."

But local police hope to keep Schanze and other paragliders from such flights in the future.

"It was the citizens who alerted us to the low-flying paraglider and said they were concerned," Allred said. "We would have treated any low-flying aircraft the same way."

Allred said the incident has city officials considering an ordinance to specifically address the issue of paragliding and hang-gliding in the community.

Schanze -- who is both famous, and infamous, in the community for his outspoken nature -- will get a chance to debate the merits of his flight at a June 13 court hearing.

FMI: www.ushga.org

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