In many Parks, aircraft are another means of transportation used similarly to cars, boats, ATVs and snowmobiles. In addition to FAA aircraft certifications and pilot licensing requirements, for NPS operations both also must be approved and carded by the Department of the Interior-Aviation Management Directorate (AMD). AMD is an agency that was created “to raise the safety standards, increase the efficiency, and promote the economical operation of aircraft activities in the Department of the Interior.”
Aircraft Use can be Divided into Two General Categories:
Point to Point and Special Use Flights
Point to Point Flights
Due to the vast distances and roadless areas such as Alaska, travel in and around many parks is dependent upon aircraft. Many times, personnel are transported by NPS owned or contracted aircraft simply due to the fact that no commercial aircraft service exists.
Special Use Flights
NPS personnel use aircraft to accomplish an immense amount of work. A significant number of flights NPS personnel are involved in are special use flights. Sometimes these missions involve special flight profiles such as collecting data during aerial surveys or performing aerial radio tracking of Florida panthers or other endangered species. Sometimes these flights involve transportation between points that require specialized aircraft and/or pilot skills that may also be deemed special use. For example, transportation of hydrologists for a water sampling mission that requires landing on water. Mt. McKinley Basecamp, preparing to fly patrol at Denali National Park
Often times it is advantageous to fly visiting officials and/or dignitaries over Parks in order to provide a better overview of the Park’s mission. These flights generally take off and land at airports or established helibases, but on occasion these flights fall into a special use profile.