Air Tour Management Plans in Works for Four National Parks

 - May 24, 2023, 10:18 AM
Haleakala National Park (Photo: National Park Service)

Concerned about the potential for commercial air tours to adversely impact U.S. national park resources and visitor experiences, the FAA, in cooperation with the National Park Service, has long been developing air tour management plans (ATMPs) and voluntary agreements with air tour operators to minimize impacts.

In the latest such action, the FAA has issued a notice seeking public comments on draft ATMPs for four U.S. national parks: Haleakala, Hawaii Volcanoes, Mount Rushmore, and the Badlands. According to the FAA, the drafts “provide acceptable and effective measures to mitigate or prevent the significant adverse impacts, if any, of commercial air tour operations upon the Parks’ natural and cultural resources and visitor experiences, as well as on tribal lands.”

These management plans specifically apply to commercial air tour operators as defined by the FAA, namely, “a flight for compensation or hire in a powered aircraft, where a purpose of the flight is sightseeing over the park or within one-half mile outside the park’s boundary during which the aircraft flies below 5,000 feet agl.”

The notice includes links to the ATMPs for each of the four parks, and also gives links to virtual meetings scheduled to be held between May 24 and June 7. The meetings will provide an overview of the proposed ATMPs and an opportunity for the public to ask questions. Adoption of these drafts can set the stage for implementing revisions to commercial air tour operator regulations (FAR Part 136). Comments on the drafts are due by June 20, 2023.