Forum Index > Public Lands Stewardship > Air Tour Management Plan for Olympic National Park 07/29/21
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PostThu Jul 29, 2021 11:30 am 
Thursday July 29, 2021 11:08 PDT

Olympic National Park News Release

Public Input Sought on Proposed Air Tour Management Plan for Olympic National Park


OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, Port Angeles, WA – The National Park Service (NPS) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are seeking public feedback on a draft Air Tour Management Plan (ATMP) proposed for Olympic National Park.

The agencies encourage anyone with an interest in or concern about commercial air tours over Olympic National Park to review and comment on the draft ATMP. The proposed plan would authorize up to 64 air tours per year on a defined route. There were on average 64 air tours per year reported at Olympic National Park from 2017 – 2019. This plan does not cover military overflights.

The NPS and FAA will host a virtual public meeting regarding the Olympic National Park Air Tour Management Plan on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 from 5:30-7:00 pm PT that will be livestreamed at https://youtu.be/lSW9867qHiA. Members of the public who wish to observe the virtual meetings can also access the livestream from 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.

Public feedback can be provided through the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website from July 29, 2021 through August 28, 2021. The NPS and FAA will consider comments to help inform the final ATMP for Olympic National Park. The project website is available at: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/OlympicATMP.

“We encourage anyone who is interested in commercial air tours over the park to share their thoughts on the proposed plan,” said Sarah Creachbaum, Olympic National Park Superintendent. “The draft plan is based on current operations and reported air tour levels at Olympic National Park. Its purpose is to ensure that park resource values, including natural sounds, wilderness character, visitor experiences, wildlife, and other natural and cultural resources, are protected.”

Olympic National Park is among 24 parks of the National Park System developing air tour management plans in cooperation with the FAA. The agencies hope to complete all air tour management plans by the end of August 2022. The schedule is part of a plan approved by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for the agencies to comply with the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000 within two years.

An important part of the process is the inclusion of American Indian Tribes. The agencies are consulting with Tribes that have tribal lands within or adjacent to Olympic National Park, and with Tribes that attach historic and cultural significance to resources within the park.

Please visit this NPS site (https://www.nps.gov/subjects/sound/airtours.htm ) and this FAA site (https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/arc/programs/air_tour_management_plan/ ) for more detailed information about air tour management plans. Links to meeting notifications, recordings, and slide decks (where applicable) will be posted to the NPS site.

The 24 parks:

1. Arches National Park, Utah
2. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
3. Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
4. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
5. Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona
6. Canyonlands National Park, Utah
7. Death Valley National Park, California
8. Everglades National Park, Florida
9. Glacier National Park, Montana
10. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area; Arizona, Utah
11. Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California
12. Great Smoky Mountains National Park; Tennessee, North Carolina
13. Haleakalā National Park, Hawai’i
14. Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Hawaiʻi
15. Lake Mead National Recreation Area; Arizona, Nevada
16. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
17. Muir Woods National Monument, California
18. Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota
19. Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
20. National Parks of New York Harbor Management Unit; New York, New Jersey
21. Olympic National Park, Washington
22. Point Reyes National Seashore, California
23. Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah
24. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, California

--NPS--

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PostSat Jul 31, 2021 5:52 pm 
Ski wrote:
Public Input Sought on Proposed Air Tour Management Plan for Olympic National Park [/b]

Fine with me...if they're held above 25,000'! No good reason to disrupt the quiet that is naturally there.

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PostSat Jul 31, 2021 6:04 pm 
It's doubtful that tourist flights would be at the same cruising altitude as a commercial airliner.

I don't believe that the number of flights they're talking about - 62 per year, if I understand correctly - poses that great a problem.

Now, if you're talking about the Growlers from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, the noise from which is effectively non-stop from about 9 am until after dusk, I'd say that's a problem.
Of course, that's an "MOA" (Military Operations Area) so there's not much we peons can do about it other than give our wonderful flyboys the one-finger salute as they pass overhead.


(* the video was shot about a dozen miles from the coast in an ancient cedar grove *)

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PostSun Aug 01, 2021 10:38 am 
Ski wrote:
It's doubtful that tourist flights would be at the same cruising altitude as a commercial airliner.

Right, that was a bit of a "tongue-in-cheek" comment, the point being I see no reason to cover every square foot of earth with noise. Helicopters make noise. Or in other words, if those folks are too lazy to go out and do the footwork to experience the area "in person" then they have no business doing so via some noisy machine. None.

And that's my well thought out opinion.

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PostSun Aug 01, 2021 11:19 am 
^ I would agree emphatically with you that flyovers - whether they be fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters - are an inappropriate use of the airspace over a National Park.

You will notice that Grand Canyon National Park is absent from the list above, as well as Zion. Why is that?

I'm having a difficult time getting all charged up about this one, because I know what helicopters flying over the Park sound like, and I know what small fixed-wing aircraft sound like flying over the Park, and the larger problem is the military aircraft from Whidbey which are overhead all day, every day, all day, every day.

I see the National Park Service making a lot of motion and writing a lot of papers and holding a lot of meetings about this, but it's essentially re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

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PostSun Aug 01, 2021 11:42 am 
Hellicopters in Grand Canyon are a major pain and unfortunately a revenue source for the park, so there's your answer. mad.gif

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PostWed Aug 04, 2021 11:19 pm 
Ski wrote:
You will notice that Grand Canyon National Park is absent from the list above, as well as Zion. Why is that?

Grand Canyon NP was previously addressed in the National Parks Overflight Act of 1987.  The FAA then put special flight restrictions and rules, including regulations governing air tour operations over Grand Canyon, into effect (see summary of all this long, litigious process here).  So Congress explicitly exempted Grand Canyon NP from the Air Tour Management Act of 2000.

A 2012 amendment to the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000 also exempts all National Parks having fewer than 50 air tour flights per year.  Zion reported only 19 flights (and North Cascades NP reported 0), so are among the list of 53 Parks exempt from the Act. (For a full list, see Table 8 in the 2019 NPS Air Tour report).

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PostSat Aug 07, 2021 4:31 pm 
Good reading linked below. I hope people do comment, though I'm not sure how much difference it will make. It seems so hard to find quiet anywhere. I think we should place a much higher value on quiet in NPs than we do.

Tourist helicopters go over my house near Green Lake now. They are allowed to fly as low as 300 feet. I can't stand them. Looking at their websites, there are companies that brag about flying at 300' in the Cascades, over river corridors for example.

https://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/environment/helicopter-tours-noise-outdoors-faa-rules/

In August 2018, about 250 fed-up Hawaiians filed into a Department of Transportation meeting in Hilo to rail against a steady stream of helicopters passing over their homes—as many as 80 a day—en route to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. One commenter, standing at the microphone, said, “It’s getting to the point where you think I could hit that thing with a .357.”

Over the past decade, Hawaii’s helicopter tour business has grown 67 percent, buzzing the state with tens of thousands of flights annually. Residents are irritated that there is no beach, trail, or surf spot where they can escape the noisy machines. That’s without mentioning the danger—in April 2019 a Novictor Helicopters aircraft was 13 minutes into a scenic tour when it plummeted onto the street of an Oahu residential neighborhood, killing all three aboard. No residents were hurt, and only a parked rental car was damaged, but the crash heightened locals’ anger with the industry.

Hawaiians aren’t alone. Frustrations with the intrusive machines have long simmered in some of the nation’s most scenic spots. Groups have mobilized against helicopter tours in Grand Canyon and Glacier National Parks for decades, while trail users are fighting the overflights in places like Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Sedona, Arizona; and even Los Angeles, where tours hover above the Hollywood sign in Griffith Park.

The problem, opponents say, is that no matter how vigorous the opposition, the Federal Aviation Administration ultimately has authority over the tours and has shown no interest in limiting the industry.

While skies are currently quiet over most of the country due to the pandemic, the presence of helicopter tours is still on the minds of many communities, including residents of Jackson Hole. In April, the Jackson Hole Airport Board approved an application from Wind River Air to operate on their tarmac, despite six hours of public testimony against the tours from local residents over Zoom—more than 350 comments.

As it happens, all five members of the Jackson Hole airport board oppose the scenic helicopter tours. The problem, they say, is that a condition of the federal funding that makes up the majority of their budget states that they aren’t allowed to discriminate against any aviation business that the FAA approves.

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PostSat Aug 07, 2021 4:34 pm 
If anyone read the news today, you saw that 5 people from Seattle were killed in a flightseeing crash in AK yesterday.
https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/nation/coast-guard-searching-for-plane-with-6-on-board-in-alaska/

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PostSat Aug 07, 2021 7:15 pm 
kiliki wrote:
The problem, opponents say, is that no matter how vigorous the opposition, the Federal Aviation Administration ultimately has authority over the tours and has shown no interest in limiting the industry.

That's why the FAA is now under a Federal court order to implement the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000, and in cooperation with NPS, issue these air tour plans within 24 months.  (Or else the court may issue the plans proposed by NPS, overriding any objections the FAA may have.)  Congress sets federal policy, not the FAA.

kiliki wrote:
I hope people do comment, though I'm not sure how much difference it will make.

I agree, but for different reasons.  Only substantive comments that are within the limited authority granted in the Act will make any difference.  The Act does not grant FAA or NPS any authority to limit commercial airline, military, or private flights over national parks, nor does the Act limit the many flights NPS itself makes to capture or shoot mountain goats, monitor wildlife or salmon or glaciers, maintain trails and bridges, or for firefighting or search & rescue.  Nor does it reduce the noise of motorcycles and trucks on Park roads, or of RV generators in Park campgrounds, or boats.  And all the national parks in Alaska are excluded from the Act.

Air tour flights are a significant factor in the soundscape of only a handful of National Parks.  Incessant helicopter air tours are even part of the ambiance of the Statue of Liberty (and of NY Harbor NP): one doesn't go there seeking deep sky darkness or silence.  92% of air tours occur over only 10 national parks, only 5 of which are outside urban areas: Hawaii Volcanos, Haleakalā, Mt Rushmore, Badlands and Rainbow Bridge (see Table 3 here).

Air tours have no significant impact on soundscape in Olympic, Mt Rainier or NCNP, relative to jets out of SEATAC or military flights.

Comments that are outside of the scope of the Act, or are off topic, will not make any difference.

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"the wild is not the opposite of cultivated.  It is the opposite of the captivated” - Vandana Shiva
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PostSat Aug 07, 2021 10:12 pm 
Quote:
Air tours have no significant impact on soundscape in Olympic, Mt Rainier or NCNP, relative to jets out of SEATAC or military flights.

While I understand your point, and agree there are other significant and bothersome sources of noise in NPs, I think it is very important to nip this in the bud and to realize, they have no significant impact yet. Flightseeing tours have grown exponentially in other places (like the HI parks) in recent years. There's no reason that that couldn't happen here, especially as the cruise industry and tourism explodes here. Flightseeing is such a common excursion for cruisers in AK--I can't see why those tourists wouldn't love to do that here as well before or after their trip. They are doing it over Seattle more and more.

The tourist helis, which again, are allowed to fly at 300', are uniquely disturbing. I have a constant stream of jet traffic over my house of Seatac bound planes. I'm 2 blocks from Aurora Ave. But when one of those #$!&$! black tourist helis goes over my house, boy do I hear it. And it's so aggravating because it's so unnecessary. It's not transportation. It's joyriding.

Quote:
Incessant helicopter air tours are even part of the ambiance of the Statue of Liberty (and of NY Harbor NP): one doesn't go there seeking deep sky darkness or silence.

New Yorkers hate those air tours. They aren't "ambiance" if you live there.

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/01/nyregion/deal-restricts-tourist-helicopter-flights-over-new-york.html

After decades of complaints about noise and air pollution from the tens of thousands of tourist helicopter flights that circle Manhattan each year, New York City announced a deal on Sunday that would cut their number in half by January 2017.

In addition, the helicopters, as familiar a sight on the city’s waterfront as sea gulls and joggers, will not fly on Sundays starting April 1 and will be banned from flying over Governors Island and Staten Island. In waterfront parks across the city, activists have measured noise readings in excess of 75 decibels, louder than a vacuum cleaner.

The agreement, announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio, was intended to address the complaints while trying to keep aloft a multimillion-dollar industry. Last year, more than 59,000 flights took off from Pier 6 near the Battery, the only heliport that provides the tours.

“Everyone gave a little to get to this outcome, but the solution will mean a more livable city for everyone,” Mayor de Blasio, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Yet there are many who believe that even one tourist helicopter is too many.


“I’m happy there’s finally movement on the issue, but I have serious doubts that the 50 percent will be enough,” Representative Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat who represents the West Side of Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, said. Like many elected officials, Mr. Nadler has been campaigning for an all-out ban on the helicopters dating to the administration of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, something he still believes is the best course of action.

**
But it still sucks!

https://www.thecity.nyc/2020/11/15/21566204/helicopter-noise-complaints-sky-high-new-york-city

Complaints to 311 about helicopters noisily hovering above New York have soared this year — with an analysis by THE CITY showing a more than 130% increase over 2019.

The 7,758 chopper noise complaints this year through Friday are over 4,400 more than were registered on 311 all of last year. The calls are coming as many New Yorkers work from home during the pandemic.

“It’s just hell on a nice day,” said Melodie Bryant, 71, who lives on the fourth floor of a Chelsea brownstone. “There have been times when the helicopters flew so low that I have wanted to run into the street screaming.”

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