Air Regs Coming For National Parks

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New Rule Announced...

Well, the FAA and the National Park Service must have had such a good time implementing flight restrictions over the Grand Canyon, they have decided to spread that joy to all corners of the country. Starting this fall, the two agencies will begin the almost unimaginably complex task of applying Grand Canyon-style air regs to each and every one of the U.S.'s national parks. A new final rule has been issued by the FAA "that calls for site specific plans to protect the environment of U.S. national parks," according to an FAA news release posted Wednesday (right before the long weekend when many of us weren't going to be at work for four days). Although the new rule will affect airspace over thousands of square miles at as many as 345 national parks, the public announcement of this wide, sweeping rule was limited to a single paragraph on the FAA's media Web page. In fact, the media contact listed on the press release was off Friday and other media staff couldn't find any official record of the rule referred to in the press release. However, a spokesman for the Western-Pacific region was somewhat familiar with it.

...Hawaiian Volcano Flights First

Jerry Snyder, public affairs officer for the region, confirmed that the intent is to apply flight restrictions that match the perceived needs and conditions at each national park. Each park will end up with its own set of rules after consultation with park users, American Indian tribes and, of course, the air-tour operators themselves. All aspects of flight operations are on the table, including restricting the number of flights. Of course, the new rule will have a bigger impact in places where air-tour businesses are a firmly established part of the local tourist trade and one of the busiest sightseeing corridors in the country will be the test bed. "The first ones to be done will be out in Hawaii at Hilo with the flights going up over the volcanoes," he said. With those businesses just entering their busy season, it will be interesting to see the reaction from air-tour operators.

NOTE: Read AVweb's previous coverage of the Grand Canyon hi-jinks from August, May, and last year.