Fees Cut For Quiet Grand Canyon Air Tour Operators
An incentive to use technology to reduce overflight noise for Grand Canyon National Park air tour operators kicked in on the first day of the new year. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the eight flightseeing operators have to pay a $25 fee per flight over the Grand Canyon; however, the fee is reduced to $20 for aircraft that meet noise reduction requirements. The FAA determines which aircraft comply through a formula that takes into account flyover noise emission from certification data and number of seats. According to National Park spokesperson Maureen Oltrogge, about 60 percent of the current sightseeing fleet are qualified for the fee reduction.
The National Park Service says the incentive program could save operators as much as $250,000 per year. The program is a result of a provision in a 2012 federal transportation bill to make half of the park free from commercial air tour noise for at least 75 percent of the day. Some nonconforming aircraft may be modified to meet the new standard with different engines and/or propellers. While increasing the number of seats in an aircraft may also allow it to qualify, it may not be possible given gross weight limitations. Quiet technology is in use at other national parks and noise-sensitive flightseeing locations around the country. Incentives in those locations have lead to operators modifying aircraft with quieter engines and propellers or selling their noisier aircraft and purchasing quieter ones.