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Contact: Emily Davis, 865-436-1207
GATLINBURG, Tenn—The National Park Service (NPS) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) completed an air tour management plan for Great Smoky Mountains National Park on December 3, 2022. The plan establishes measures to protect park resources including natural and cultural resources, preservation of wilderness character, and visitor experience.
“We appreciate the tireless work that went into the development of the Smokies air tour management plan,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The plan incorporates several improvements that allow continued air tour activity, while at the same time better protecting the wilderness character of the backcountry, wildlife populations, natural soundscapes, and the visitor experience in historic areas like Cades Cove.”
Commercial air tours have occurred over the Smokies for many years without defined operating parameters. The air tour management plan protects national park resources and values by providing continued education and management oversight.
The plan authorizes up to 946 air tours per year on six defined routes conducted over the park and up to ½-mile outside the park’s boundary at an altitude above 2,600 feet. There were on average 946 air tours per year reported over the park from 2017 – 2019.
The operating parameters of the plan will be effective within 90 days from the date of signature on the air tour management plan.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is among 24 parks in the National Park System for which the agencies are developing air tour management plans or voluntary agreements. Each air tour management plan is developed to allow air tours to be managed in a way that is consistent with the NPS’s mission and the FAA’s authority to ensure flight safety. The plans meet the requirements from the National Parks Air Tour Management Act to mitigate or prevent significant adverse impacts from commercial air tours on the park and NPS’s obligation to protect the park's natural and cultural resources, wildlife, and the visitor enjoyment.
An important part of the process is the inclusion of American Indian Tribes. The agencies consulted with Tribes that have tribal lands within or adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and with Tribes that attach historic and cultural significance to resources within the park.
The final air tour management plan is available at this site. Please visit this NPS site and this FAA site for more detailed information about air tour management plans.
Last updated: December 7, 2022