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Contact: Outer Banks Group, (252) 473-2111
Late in 2006, the National Park Service (NPS) announced that it was considering whether or not to reinstitute a commercial airplane tour service (sometimes referred to as a "concession") for park visitors at Wright Brothers National Memorial (WRBR). An airplane tour service was first established at the Memorial in 1982 and ran continuously thereafter until it was suspended following a June 7, 2001 concession airplane crash in which passengers were injured. Following the five year suspension of the service, Superintendent Mike Murray concluded that changing conditions at the site and in the surrounding community required the park to reevaluate the necessity and appropriateness of an airplane tour based within the park’s boundary.
NPS concessions management law, regulations and policies require that the development of visitor services in park areas must be limited to those as are necessary and appropriate for public use and enjoyment of the park area in which they are located. Per Section 10.2.2 of NPS Management Policies 2006, a decision to authorize a park concession will be based on a determination that the facility or service:
Is consistent with enabling legislation, and
Is complementary to a park’s mission and visitor service objectives, and
Is necessary and appropriate for the public use and enjoyment of the park in which it is located, and
Is not and cannot be provided outside park boundaries, and
Will not cause unacceptable impacts.
To seek public input on the issue, NPS held a public meeting at Wright Brothers National Memorial on November 16, 2006 and provided several methods for the public to submit comments to park management from November 15 through December 15, 2006. The majority of comments opposed resuming airplane tours and expressed concerns related to the three school complexes and the increased residential development built since 2001 and adjacent to the airstrip.
Multiple factors were considered in the making the decision, including the fact that airplane tours are available outside the park at the Dare County Regional Airport. "After carefully reviewing the applicable laws, regulations, policies and plans, as well as the public comments, we have concluded that providing airplane tours originating at Wright Brothers National Memorial is not necessary or in any way required to accomplish the park’s mission or visitor service objectives. The mission relates specifically to the commemoration of the Wright Brothers achievements in aviation," said Superintendent Murray. "The National Park Service has decided to not resume airplane tours at the National Memorial."
The WRBR airstrip and visiting pilot’s facility will continue to provide access for private pilots and their passengers to visit the National Memorial.