ate in February, we received a Federal Express package from the FAA announcing that they would present the long awaited rule regulating air tours over Grand Canyon by March 22nd. They seemed serious.
There was to be a 30-day public comment period following the presentation of the rule, and 30 days isn’t much time. We planned to mail out an Action Alert. Also we set up a web site where people could get information regarding the issue along with details about the rule. Several outfitters helped fund these projects—Canyon Explorations, Outdoors Unlimited and Arizona Raft Adventures. We had everything on line as the date promised by the FAA passed with nary a word. We have been hearing that it would be ready in “a couple more weeks” ever since, but months later there still is no rule.
In April, President Clinton signed an Executive Order which directed the FAA to restore natural quiet to Grand Canyon. He gave them 90 days to issue proposed regulations “to place appropriate limits on sightseeing aircraft over the Grand Canyon National Park to reduce the noise immediately and make further substantial progress toward restoration of natural quiet”. He directed the FAA to implement this action by the end of 1996, and to ensure that natural quiet had been restored to the park within 12 years. The FAA has until July 22nd to respond to this directive.
Meanwhile, the FAA has come under fire in the aftermath of the ValuJet crash. Many have suggested that one of the causes of the crash was the FAA’s dual and sometimes contradictory mission—promotion of aviation, and ensuring safety. Secretary of Transportation Frederico Peña has therefore suggested a fundamental change to the FAA’s charter to make safety its sole priority.
That secondary mission which has been called into question—promotion of aviation—has been the main stumbling block in dealing with the FAA regarding restoration of natural quiet in Grand Canyon. Although the FAA has been clearly directed by legislation to scrutinize the National Park Service’s recommendations merely for safety concerns, they have continuously stonewalled the process in their effort to promote the air tour industry’s economic interests. The FAA has a long history of defensive posturing for the aviation industry, and old habits die hard. However, Peña’s new directive could be a positive step for safety as well as restoration of natural quiet in our national parks.
o, the Condors haven’t been released into the Vermillion Cliffs area yet, but they might be by December. The postponement is mostly due to concerns expressed by a coalition representing counties in northern Arizona and Southern Utah who suspect that future land use might be affected by the introduction of the endangered species. However, Fish and Wildlife officials plan to list the birds as an “experimental, nonessential” population. They hope that the birds will adapt to land use rather than the other way around. They plan to meet again with coalition representatives this month to work out an agreement. Meanwhile, the representative from the air tour industry who expressed concern this spring about the reintroduction has withdrawn his objections. We’ll keep you posted.
Mountain Flight Ban
he FAA announced a proposed rule which would ban all scenic overflights at Rocky Mountain National Park. There aren’t any yet, and the Park wants it to stay that way. More than 90% of the Park is required to be managed as wilderness. This will help to preserve at least one area where one can be more likely to experience natural quiet. Send comments by August 13 in triplicate to: Federal Aviation Administration, Office of the Chief Counsel, Attention: Rules Docket (AGC-200), Docket No. 28577, 800 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591. Comments may also be sent by e-mail by using the following Internet address: email@example.com, but they must be marked Docket No. 28577.