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Plan would set rules on air tours over Olympic National Park; comment period open

A draft plan on how and when air tours would be allowed over the Olympic National Park is open to public comment.

 The National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration are seeking feedback on the draft plan.

According to documents released on the proposal, the Air Tour Management Plan (ATMP) for Olympic National Park (Park) would set the acceptable levels of commercial air tours for the region. This includes, but is not limited to, the frequency, duration, altitude, and routes, consistent with the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000 (Act). 

Congress had developed the Act out of concern that noise from tour aircraft could harm national park resources and experiences for visitors.

The Act requires that all commercial air tour operators conducting or intending to conduct a commercial air tour operation over a unit of the National Park System apply to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

The Act also requires the FAA establish a plan or agreement for each park.

The draft plan would set the route allowable for tours, which is being proposed primarily on the northern portion of the park, with flights coming out of the Port Angeles area and extending down to near Mount Olympus.

While the plan currently would allow for the northern route, additional areas in the park that spread down to Grays Harbor would be eligible in the future as the park spreads throughout much of the Olympic Peninsula.

Under this proposed plan, 64 annual commercial air tours are authorized.

Currently within the Olympic National Park, only one commercial air tour company operates, with an agreement that allows for up to 76 flights per year. According to data, Rite Bros Aviation, Inc. conducts an average of 64 commercial air tours at the Park each year. 

Under existing conditions, the annual number of commercial air tours at Olympic National Park is limited, however, there are no designated parameters on route, time-of-day, or altitude restrictions to further protect Park resources or visitor experience. There are also no current procedures in place which allow the Park to establish no-fly periods for special events or planned Park management. 

The plan would limit commercial air tours to daytime hours, two hours after sunrise until two hours before sunset, as defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Air tours would be able to operate any day of the year, except under certain circumstances.

The plan would not cover military flights already allowable within the airspace.

The public can provide feedback on the plan through August 28 at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectId=103431.

A virtual public meeting is set for Wednesday, August 25, 2021 (5:30-7:00 pm PT) at https://youtu.be/lSW9867qHiA.

Members of the public who wish to observe the virtual meetings can access the livestream from either of the following FAA social media platforms on the day of the event, https://www.facebook.com/FAA, https://twitter.com/FAANews or https://www.youtube.com/FAAnews.


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