KNAU and Arizona News
8:47 am
Fri February 7, 2014

More Air Tours to be Flown Over Grand Canyon

This year, nearly 2,000 additional air tours could be flown over Grand Canyon National Park. But, as Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the aircraft used for those flights will have to conform to certain quiet-technology standards.

Credit grandcanyon123.com

The Federal Aviation Administration and the Park Service are bound by a 2012 transportation bill to create incentives for the use of quiet-air technology at Grand Canyon. Recently, the FAA announced plans to make more than 1,700 abandoned flight allocations at the park available to tour operators providing that those flights employ the standards.

Earlier this year, the Park Service reduced the per-flight fee paid by operators that have conformed to those regulations from $25 to $20 per flight. But, converting an aircraft to meet the FAA’s quiet certification doesn’t necessarily mean the flight itself will be quieter. Adding more seats or changing out engines could meet the standards.

With the FAA’s flight allocation release, 94,000 total commercial flights per year are now allowed in the park. But, FAA data show that just over half of that number went out in 2012.

Certain areas of Grand Canyon like the Dragon and Zuni Point corridors will see fewer new flights, while other spots may experience an increase.

Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga, who has been an advocate of lessening overflight noise in the park, said he expects the effects on visitors to be minimal.