FAA ordered to reexamine aircraft noise at Grand Canyon

June 9, 2002

A recent federal court ruling has determined that the FAA has not done enough to accurately measure aircraft noise impacts over Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Of significance to AOPA members and GA pilots, the court says that the FAA hasn't given a good explanation for why its noise standard does not include noise from other types of aircraft, including commercial and military air traffic.

In March 2000, the FAA placed limits on air tour operations and expanded the no-fly zones in the park, but the court is telling the FAA that it must use tougher standards, after hearing complaints from environmental groups that the noise averaging done by the FAA was not representative of actual air tour noise during the summer tourist season. "This court ruling runs contrary to what is widely acknowledged within the federal agencies, that transient general aviation overflights do not contribute to noise problems at national parks," said Melissa Bailey, AOPA vice president of air traffic, regulatory, and certification policy.

The noise issue at Grand Canyon dates back to 1987, when Congress enacted Public Law 100-91, commonly known as the National Parks Overflights Act. The law states that "noise associated with aircraft overflights at Grand Canyon National Park is causing a significant adverse effect on the natural quiet and experience of the park...." It mandates that the FAA and National Park Service take action to substantially restore natural quiet at the park and protect public health and safety from adverse effects associated with aircraft overflight.

"The current flight rules at the Grand Canyon strike an appropriate balance between the ground and air users and substantially restore natural quiet," said Bailey. "The current flight rules are consistent with the intent of Public Law 100-91. AOPA is opposed to any further restrictions on transient general aviation overflights."

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