Impacts of Aviation

Noise and Visual Impacts from Aircraft Operations are a Concern in the Parks

Development of park aviation plans and specific mission planning must consider impacts on wildlife, the natural and cultural soundscapes, opportunities for solitude and visual values of wilderness, historic and cultural scenes, Native American sacred sites and traditional practices, as well as specific local restrictions or exceptions provided for by law and policy.

Sometimes aviation accidents or incidents can have a profound effect in developing landmark legislation and widespread changes to aircraft operations. For example, in 1986 there was an air tour accident over Grand Canyon National Park that led to numerous regulatory and operational changes.

helicopter in the distant blue sky, the base of the statue of liberty is in the foreground

Tour helicopter near Statue of Liberty National Monument.

helicopter flying over the majestic grand canyons

Tour helicopter over Grand Canyon National Park.

Air Crash Kills 25 At Grand Canyon

By JUDITH CUMMINGS, Special to the New York Times
Published: June 19, 1986

June 18, 1986A twin-engine plane and a helicopter carrying vacationers on sightseeing tours above the Grand Canyon collided today, killing 25 people and leaving charred wreckage on a canyon wall.

The sightseeing tours by air at the Grand Canyon have stirred growing controversy in this region, fueled by the increasing popularity of flying small craft below the canyon rim in order to gain the best possible view. Conservationists have complained that the noise and frequency of some flyovers constitutes an intolerable assault on the tranquility and ecology of the setting.

Impact of Aviation at Grand Canyon

Special Flight Rules in the Vicinity of Grand Canyon National Park (SFAR). This SFAR was established by the FAA in 1987 to promote aviation safety and facilitate VFR navigation over the Grand Canyon. Later that same year, research findings combined with the mid-air collision led in part to the passage of the National Parks Overflight Act.

The National Parks Overflight Act required the NPS to conduct a study to identify any problems associated with the overflight by aircraft of units of the National Park Service. Among the elements being studied was the impacts of noise on the safety of park visitors. The study recommended restoration of the natural quiet to Grand Canyon National Park.

In January of 1998, a ceremony was held at Grand Canyon National Park Airport to dedicate the introduction of a quiet technology helicopter. The MD 900 Helicopter was the first helicopter to begin operating for the NPS that met the FAA’s Category C noise-level requirements that became mandatory for air tour helicopters flying in the Grand Canyon National Park in 2002.

Grand Canyon Park Planning. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) in the Vicinity of Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) identifies and assesses a No Action Alternative and three Action Alternatives for management of overflight activity in Grand Canyon National Park to substantially restore natural quiet as required by law.

Addition information and training is available regarding flights in the Grand Canyon Area and in National Parks:

Grand Canyon “Overflights-Chronology of Significant Events. A chronology of aviation events from the first air tour to regulations effecting overflights of the Park.

Grand Canyon National Park Special Flight Rules Area Module. For government and public individuals who are interested in information regarding flights in the Grand Canyon Area.

To learn more about how legislation and NPS policy mitigate of the impacts of aviation visit Mitigation of the Impacts of Aviation.