NPS aircraft use by program bar graph

NPS Aircraft Locations

National Park Service Aviation—what exactly does this mean? The National Park Service uses aircrafts year round and in nearly every state to support, accomplish and promote our mission. A look at the ten year average of aviation use in the National Park Service shows 4 broad program areas that are supported by aircraft flying about 17,000 hours annually.

To support the programs that use aviation to accomplish their missions, the National Park Service has permanent NPS pilots in fourteen of its larger parks in the Lower 48 and Alaska and operates 44 aircraft. Of those 44 aircraft, NPS owns and operates 26 airplanes and helicopters as part of its fleet program. The remaining aircraft are obtained through contracts from commercial aircraft operators that are either under exclusive-use to the NPS or shared with an interagency partner.

The NPS hire two types of pilots to fly its fleet aircraft, the professional pilot, who primarily provides transportation of personnel and equipment at parks with very active aviation programs. The second type are the dual function law enforcement or biologist/pilots. The law enforcement (LE) pilots utilize aircraft as a flying patrol vehicle. The biologist/pilot’s focus is primarily on resource monitoring missions such as wildlife or vegetative surveys.

nps aviation location map

View Large Map of National Park Service Fleet and Exclusive-Use Contract Aircraft

Not all NPS flying is accomplished by fleet or exclusive-use contracted aircraft; aircraft for a variety of missions are procured from privately owned aviation services on what are called either “On Call Contracts,” “Call When Needed Contracts,” or “Aircraft Rental Agreements” (see Business Management or Professional Tools for more information). These aviation services are used by such programs as the Inventory and Monitoring Program (I & M). In 2010, the Central Alaska I & M flew over 600 hours for such missions as electronic animal tracking and population surveys.

Aerial Map of Animal Tracking

Map of aerially tracked radio-collared wolf movement and aerial monitoring of moose at Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.

For quick access to additional resources for fixed wing and rotor wing information, visit the Lessons Learned Center: Fixed wing and Rotor wing.