Air Tours

Tourists experience the wonder of Grand Canyon National Park from the vantage of a helicopter.
Tourists experience the wonder of Grand Canyon NP from the vantage of a helicopter. NPS photo

The Overflights Program works cooperatively with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Park Service parks, and air tour operators to develop air tour management agreements. The agreements are designed to protect park resources and visitor use without compromising aviation safety or the nation's air traffic control system. They establish conditions for conducting air tours, including specific routes, altitudes, number of flights, type of aircraft, hours of operations, and reporting requirements.

Air Tour Management Plans

The National Park Service (NPS) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continue working together to implement the National Parks Air Tour Management Act (NPATMA). Voluntary Agreements (VAs) are currently in place in four parks (Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, and Rainbow Bridge National Monument). The agencies will be developing additional VAs or Air Tour Management Plans (ATMPs) for the following park units: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Mount Rainier National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, and Death Valley National Park. More detailed information with respect to the plans for each park will be available after September 30, 2019. Questions should be directed to Jeffrey Olson, Chief, Natural Resource Office of Communication. Email Jeffrey Olson.

The agreements are available on request. Contact the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division for information.

Graphic correlates numbers and areas of air tour activity in U.S. national parks in 2017. Refer to the accompanying 2017 Annual Report for specific details.
Graphic correlates numbers and areas of air tour activity in U.S. national parks in 2017. Refer to the accompanying 2017 Annual Report for specific details.

J. A. Beeco / NPS

The NPS and FAA collect information from air tour companies that fly over national parks. The companies submit their information on the Commerical Air Tours Reporting Form. The data provide high-level overviews of air tour activity, including the number of flights per year.

The NPS and FAA jointly established the National Parks Overflights Advisory Group in 2001. This group provides continuing advice and counsel with respect to commercial air tour operations over and near national parks. They work with other stakeholders, such as air tour operators and tribes, to address a range of general aviation and environmental concerns.

Historic photo of the Wright Brothers flying the first airplane at Kitty Hawk, and summary information about air tour history.
National Park Service Story Map gives a history of overflights in NPS parks.

Adam Beeco / NPS

Learn more about the history of air tours from the NPS Story Map of the History of Overflights at National Park Service Units.

The NPS Overflights team also provides technical assistance to parks. Assistance includes monitoring acoustic conditions, analyzing acoustic and visitor survey data, developing ambient acoustic baseline information, and planning for the management of air tours.

Additional Information

  • National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000 as amended.
    The National Parks Air Tour Management Act has been amended several times by separate public laws. 49 United States Code Section 40128, Overflights of National Parks, collates the original law with subsequent amendments, and deletes language that has been repealed.

Last updated: August 9, 2019