...Altitude Minimums Raise Safety Concerns

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Cruson said new minimum altitudes for tour operators could actually create safety problems. Currently, sightseeing aircraft operate between 500 and 1,000 feet AGL depending on aircraft type and the areas over which they are flying. The new rule would set the limit at 1,000 feet for all sightseeing aircraft. And since the essence of sightseeing is to get as close to the sights as possible, that means all aircraft will operate right on that limit. "It will decrease the level of safety because it focuses more aircraft in less airspace," he said. Cruson said his company is still studying the 62-page document before sending its comments to the FAA. At least one industry group has tried broaching the topic with the FAA, but with little success. At last week's meeting between the GA Coalition, made up of the leading alphabet groups and the FAA, the group was briefed on the NPRM and tried to let agency officials know they were worried about it. The outgoing chairman, EAA President Tom Poberezny, said the FAA officials could not legally discuss the group's concerns because the NPRM is at the comment stage. "EAA and a large number of the coalition members have strong reservations about the rule, which will likely be reflected in their individual comments to the docket," Poberezny said.