To prevent the establishment of a precedent that could affect general aviation pilots, AOPA will challenge the 5,000-foot "triggering altitude" contained in the proposed National Parks Air Tour Plan. The FAA has just published the proposed rule for public comment.
The plan, which regulates commercial air tour operations over national parks, does not have any direct impact on most general aviation traffic. That's because AOPA was part of the working group that developed the plan. The association successfully argued that transient general aviation aircraft do not cause a significant amount of noise or congestion over national parks.
But a key part of the debate was establishing a "triggering altitude" that would define what was a "commercial air tour operation" under the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000. The FAA set that altitude at 5,000 feet agl. AOPA had previously opposed 5,000 feet as "arbitrary and excessive." (Current guidelines call for GA aircraft to overfly environmentally sensitive areas at 2,000 feet or more.)
AOPA is concerned that the 5,000-foot triggering altitude could be used in the future to justify restrictions against other types of overflight, including general aviation. AOPA will be filing comments opposing the triggering altitude.
Comments on the proposed National Parks Air Tour Plan are due by June 11, 2001.