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Contact: Ardrianna Mclane, 239-695-1107
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Park Service (NPS), and two commercial air tour operators have signed air tour management agreements to manage commercial air tours over Big Cypress National Preserve. These are the first-ever agreements of this kind developed for any unit of the NPS. They were developed in a collaborative effort among FAA, the preserve, the air tour operators, the NPS Southeast Region, and the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division of the NPS's Natural Resource Stewardship and Science directorate.
The agreements with operators Wings and Miami Seaplane Tours, Inc. establish conditions for conducting air tours, including specific routes, altitudes, number of flights, type of aircraft, hours of operations, and reporting requirements. Wings has been providing air tours over the preserve for many years under interim operating authority from FAA for up to 1,260 tours annually;the new agreement now authorizes up to 720 tours a year. The agreement with Miami Seaplane Tours, Inc., a new operator over the preserve, authorizes up to 252 tours a year. The agreements will be fully implemented when the FAA updates the operating specifications for each operator within 90 days of Dec. 21, 2015, the date of final signatures.
As an existing operator, Wings will continue to fly tours under interim operating authority until the update of the operating specifications. After that, Wings will operate according to the terms of the agreement. Because Miami Seaplanes is a new tour operator over the preserve, it may begin tours once the company's operating specifications have been updated. Copies of the signed agreements, along with a list of frequently asked questions about air tours and the development of the agreements, are available at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectID=51773.
Nationwide, commercial air tour companies have interim operating authority from FAA to conduct about 289,000 commercial air tours over national parks each year. The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 gave the FAA and NPS authority to enter into air tour management agreements with commercial operators. Such agreements manage commercial air tours over national park units to protect park resources and visitor use without compromising aviation safety or the nation's air traffic control system.