What We Do

The National Park Service (NPS) Aviation Program is unique, challenging, and the most complex of all aviation programs within the Department of the Interior. High-risk activities are routinely performed in diverse terrain and environmental conditions. The program’s highly skilled pilots and personnel use aircraft and equipment to perform aviation functions critical to accomplishing the NPS mission, including law enforcement activities, search and rescue, firefighting, medical evacuations, natural and cultural resource management activities, and cargo and personnel transport.

group stands outside of helicopter on snowy field with an airplane in the background

Promote Safety

The NPS Aviation Program is responsible for developing servicewide policy related to aviation operational procedures, equipment, personnel qualifications, and safety standards for the Service.

An ambulance waits at the entrance to a helibase while crew members unload a patient from a helicopter.

Visitor Protection

Protecting the people and the parks. Read about how aviation is used in search and rescue and other functions within the parks.

A woman in a flight helmet looks out the door of a helicopter on mountain filled with smoke.

Wildfires & Prescribed Fire

Fire management in our national parks combines fire operations, prescribed fire, and fire ecology to maintain fire in the natural ecosystems. Find out about aviation’s role in fire monitoring, management, personnel transport, and research.

Plane dispersing herbicide into the forest

Environmental Stewardship

Aviation use in most national parks is strictly regulated. The concerns for aircraft noise and visual intrusion notwithstanding, sometimes the use of aircraft in these sensitive areas is necessary to prevent a larger and long-term impact to NPS resources.

Scientists on a platform conduct studies in a swampy area while a helicopter waits nearby.

Resource & Wildlife Management

Nearly 40 percent of NPS aircraft use supports natural resource management. Learn about how aviation is used in resource and wildlife management, research, and monitoring.

A group carrying packs walks toward an airplane on a glacier with snowy mountains in the background.

Personnel Transport

Aircraft are another means of transportation used as cars, boats, ATVs, and snowmobiles are in fire, search and rescue, law enforcement, maintenance, and other operations within the parks. Learn more.

man carrying a drone outside

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

Learn more about administrative uses of unmanned aircraft in the national parks as well as about the current prohibition on public use.

 A patrol plane flies in for a landing in scrubby desert landscape.

Law Enforcement

Commissioned law enforcement officers with the National Park Service perform resource stewardship, education, and visitor use management activities. NPS law enforcement staff often work in dangerous situations in harsh environmental conditions. Read about how aviation comes into play in NPS law enforcement work.

Last updated: July 19, 2016