The FAA has again delayed the Grand Canyon Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) east end route and airspace implementation. The latest rule maintains "status-quo" until at least February 20, 2006, to give the FAA more time to review guidance on measuring noise in the park and to determine how to address non-air tour aircraft noise. While the current rule has no direct impact on general aviation pilots, there is the potential for future modifications to the east-end and west-end routes and airspace to achieve substantial restoration of natural quiet in the park.
An August 2002 court case ruling determined that FAA noise monitoring standards are inconsistent with those of the National Park Service (NPS). The court ruled that the FAA's explanation of excluding non-tour aircraft in its noise modeling was inadequate. As a result, the FAA must now work with the NPS to develop the necessary environmental analysis and review process to help restore "natural quiet" at the Grand Canyon.
AOPA has led the fight to preserve general aviation access to airspace over national parks and successfully objected to parts of the rule that would have imposed greater restrictions on transient GA aircraft crossing the canyon. "AOPA continues to maintain that transient general aviation overflights do not have a negative noise impact on our national parks," said Melissa Bailey, AOPA vice president for air traffic, regulatory and certification policy.