New Regs Cut Hawaii Volcano Flights 80 Percent


Flights over Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will be cut some 80% under new rules outlined by the Federal Aviation Administration and National Park Service Air Tour Management Plan (ATMP), which was finalized on Dec. 20. 

The new regulations limit flights to 1,548 per year—a significant reduction compared to the more than 11,000 operating now. Air tours will also be limited to specific days and times, while the restrictions include no-fly days such as Sundays, Hawaiian holidays and days that honor important Hawaiian people of nobility. 

“The ATMP is more than 20 years in the making. It significantly reduces the number of low-flying air tours over the park to protect the natural and cultural resources, the wilderness character and general visitor experience,” said Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh in a press release.

But critics say the rules limit opportunities for older people or those with disabilities to experience the landscapes of Hawaii from the air. Others argue that air tour operators will be forced to fly further from the national park and towards communities to maintain flying volumes. 

“We don’t expect flight volume to change again; it’s more about the boundaries where the parks and the FAA are setting the routes to fly that will be changing coming next summer,” Quentin Koch, president of Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, told KHON Honolulu. 

The ATMP is set to take effect mid-2024.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. So called “environmentalists” and other critics will never be happy until all flights are banned over national parks!

  2. Has anyone interviews the “nature” to see if it cares? I doubt it. Man has dominion over it, says so in Genesis 1:26. Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

  3. In the late ’70’s a skydiving C-45 I jumped from weekends at Dillingham on Oahu took a load of sightseers over an eruption on the Big Island. When they returned to Lagoon Drive in Honolulu the FAA asked the pilot if he’d been low over the volcano and he said no. The inspector looked under the wings and the painted lettering was bubbled.

  4. SO MANY self-appointed “do-gooders!”

    Here is a clean and minimum-impact way to see the park. It allows people that do NOT have good physical strength (elderly, families with children, and handicapped) to enjoy the park.

    It requires no physical or visual impact on the park–no trails, no toilets, no extra ranger stations, and decreases auto traffic.

    Restricting air tours doesn’t “save the environment”–it just changes the means of carriage to the surface.

    Perhaps these same self-appointed “do-gooders” will propose taking the flight ban over the parks ONE STEP FURTHER, and RESTRICT THE NUMBER OF FLIGHTS TO HAWAII FROM THE MAINLAND! (sarcasm).


      Hardly sarcasm. I have often wondered why local officials haven’t used this tactic to artificially reduce supply, thus increasing profits.

  5. Although the press release sites natural, cultural resources, and wilderness character as driving factors, I would hazard a guess that the bordering residences have also played a heavy role in the development and implementation of this ATMP.

    • I suspect you are correct. I’ve about had it with this stuff. I really wish reporters would wise up and never again accept pro environment answers. Peel the onion, and there’s always something else behind it.
      The donors to the big organizations are just customers to the people who run them. Then there’s the little groups which are often just land owners who are conspiring to steal commons by limiting access. Go read up on the corner crossing lawsuits.
      If you trace back environmentalism far enough, you find a bunch of Marxists whose intent was obviously to destroy private property, and now they are joined by private property owners trying to steal rightful public access. All to protect nature, of course.

  6. My question is: who determined to limit flights from over 11,000 to 1,548?

    This seems arbitrary and capricious, not to mention punitive.

    I am going to save the planet in my own special way with regards to Hawaii, I’m never going to spend another dollar traveling to or staying there.

    Hawaii lives and dies on tourism, they just lost this one forever.