Biscayne National Park
9700 SW 328th Street
Homestead, FL 33033
To Whom It May Concern:
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) respectfully submits these comments on the Biscayne National Park Soundscape Plan. Our comments are limited to issues concerning aircraft operations over your national park lands and the sovereignty of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over airspace management.
AOPA is a national, not-for-profit membership association of 350,000 aircraft owners and pilots. AOPA members own more than 60 percent of all active civil aircraft in the United States and account for about two thirds of the flying in the nation’s airspace system each year. The association is concerned that your plan could unduly restrict general aviation pilots legitimately transitioning navigable airspace.
These pilots rely on access to the National Airspace System, and AOPA has always been a leader in efforts to keep the nation’s airspace reasonably accessible to general aviation activities. The integrity of the National Airspace System depends on access to airspace over public lands. Mandatory flight restrictions over Biscayne National Park would adversely affect general aviation and unnecessarily burden interstate air commerce.
Over the years, AOPA has demonstrated concern for our public lands by promoting pilot education and encouraging civil pilots to observe a recommended 2,000 feet agl flight altitude above our public lands. Cooperation between general aviation pilots and the land management agencies has always been a cornerstone of aviation’s efforts to preserve the experience of ground visitors. The current voluntary overflight altitude of 2,000 feet is one positive outcome of this cooperation.
AOPA participates in the National Park Overflight Working Group (NPOWG), a federally sanctioned working group charged with developing a national management plan for overflights of National Park Service (NPS) land. The NPOWG, after much discussion, purposely limited the scope of its work to include only commercial air tour operators. The NPOWG acknowledges that legitimate, itinerant general aviation traffic does not pose a significant threat to natural quiet and should not be included in overflight regulations.
In the advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) for national park overflights, the FAA stated that the recommended minimum altitude of 2,000 feet agl, as described in FAA Advisory Circular 91-36C, is respected by most transit pilots. This acknowledges outright that private pilots already voluntarily comply with effective noise abatement procedures designed to preserve natural quiet.
We are also concerned the Biscayne National Park Soundscape Plan will attempt to impose airspace restrictions or minimum altitude requirements on general aviation. Airspace management is a subject preempted by extensive FAA regulation and interest.
Airspace in the United States is rarely considered the finite and diminishing natural resource that it is. Diminishing access to airspace is a critical issue for the future of general aviation. General aviation has a legitimate need for the use of airspace over our public lands, and these pilots should not be restricted from flying at legal altitudes over public lands.
Based on the information stated above, the scope of any future Biscayne National Park Soundscape Plan should exclude the regulation directed at transient general aviation aircraft.
We are dedicated to helping resolve concerns with general aviation aircraft noise wherever they exist. AOPA is always pleased to work with the FAA and the NPS to ensure that the needs of Biscayne National Park are balanced with the needs of the general aviation community.
Melissa K. Bailey
Air Traffic Services
June 2, 1999