Monday, 14 September 2009

Want to fly over the Grand Canyon?

I'm glad to say that I've flown over the Grand Canyon twice. With a bit of luck I'll do it again at some stage, but recent mumblings from the US have me a little worried.

For a while now, and when I say a while I mean eight years, there's been a GCWG (Grand Canyon Working Group) meeting and talking about the future of scenic tour operators flying over the Canyon. The discussion has been driven by the desire to reduce aircraft noise over the national park. The FAA has recently withdrawn from the group, leaving the job to the NPS (National Park Service).

The NPS has a reputation for being somewhat sympathetic to the environmentalist cause; in terms of aviation over the Grand Canyon, that translates to a 'substantial restoration of natural quiet'. Last September the NPS explained what that actually means, which is...

Noise from aircraft operations at or below 17,900ft msl should be reduced over 50% of the park. The reduction in noise should be between 75 and 100% all day, every day. The 50% of the park is the minimum target.

Should that happen, and right now the NPS is working on a proposal for the FAA to consider from a safety point of view, it's clear that aerial operations from fixed- and rotary-wing traffic will be severely curtailed. Non-commercial traffic, which is already subject to some operating rules, will also be affected. AOPA US and others will no doubt work with the NPS and the FAA to try to protect access, but if you want to experience the view from above, you might not want to wait too long before planning that trip.

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