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VOLUME 11  FLIGHT STANDARDS PROGRAMS

Chapter 9  AIR TOUR MANAGEMENT PLANS

Section 1  Air Tour Management Plans: Background and General Information

11-400    APPLICABILITY. This chapter contains information, direction, and guidance for aviation safety inspectors (ASI) that pertain to the development and facilitation of Air Tour Management Plans (ATMP) in accordance with the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000 (NPATMA) and Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) Part 136, National Parks Air Tour Management.

11-401    BACKGROUND.

A.    NPATMA. This act was signed into law on April 5, 2000. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) codified the provisions of Title VIII of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (referred to as AIR-21) within part 136 on October 25, 2002. The NPATMA and part 136 establish a process for the development of an ATMP for any “commercial air tour operation” that occurs below 5000 feet above ground level (AGL), and occurs over or within mile of a unit of the national park system or adjacent tribal lands.

B.    ATMP. The objective of an ATMP is to develop acceptable and effective measures to mitigate or prevent the significant adverse impacts, if any, of commercial air tour operations upon the natural and cultural resources, visitor experiences, and tribal lands. The NPATMA requires the Administrator, in cooperation with the National Park Service (NPS) Director, to develop a specific plan to govern commercial air tour operations over national parks. The FAA and NPS are tasked with developing ATMPs through a public process. Each ATMP will be developed with particular consideration given to the uniqueness of each park. This final ATMP may contain any number of specific restrictions or no restrictions at all. Some examples of the types of restrictions that could be included in an ATMP are:

    Limits on the number and frequency of commercial air tour operations over a park;

    Establishment of routes over a park; and

    Exclusion of specific areas within a park for air tour operations.

C.    Agency Responsibilities.

1)    AIR-21 was signed into Public Law (PL 106-181) on April 5, 2000. Title VIII of AIR-21, called NPATMA, regulates commercial air tour operations over units of the National Park System through ATMPs. NPATMA requires that the Administrator of the FAA establish ATMPs in cooperation with the NPS director. For purposes of complying with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and agency planning regulations in the development of ATMPs, the NPATMA identifies the FAA as the lead agency and the NPS as a cooperating agency. Furthermore, the FAA and NPS will solicit the participation of Indian tribes whose abutting tribal lands are, or may be, overflown by commercial air tour operations over the park or tribal lands as a cooperating agency.
a)    In establishing an ATMP, the FAA Administrator and the NPS Director will sign an environmental decision document as required by Section 102 of NEPA (Title 42 of the United States Code (42 U.S.C.)  4332). This environmental document may:

    Include a finding of no significant impact (FONSI);

    State the need for an Environmental Assessment (EA); or

    State the need for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and the record of decision for the ATMP.

b)    The FAA placed the responsibility of executing this national ATMP program with the Western-Pacific Regional Administrator (AWP-1). In response, AWP created the Air Tour Management Plan Program Office (ATMP PO) under the direction of AWP’s Executive Resource Staff (AWP-4).
2)    The FAA has sole authority to control airspace over the United States. The NPATMA further authorizes the FAA to preserve, protect, and enhance the environment by minimizing, mitigating, or preventing any significant adverse effects of aircraft overflights of national parks and abutting tribal lands. The NPS has the responsibility of conserving the scenery and natural and historic objects and wildlife in national parks and providing for the enjoyment of the national parks in ways that leave the parks unimpaired for future generations.
3)    The National Parks Overflights Act of 1987 (PL 100-91), herein referred to as the Grand Canyon Act, requires actions by the Department of the Interior (DOI)/NPS and the FAA to provide for substantial restoration of the natural quiet and experience of Grand Canyon National Park (GNCP) and for protection of public health and safety from adverse effects associated with aircraft overflights. Actions have been taken over the years to improve aviation safety and reduce noise, but a final overflights plan—including routes or corridors for quiet technology aircraft—is still to be completed. A Presidential memorandum, dated April 22, 1996, directs that a plan must ensure that the restoration of natural quiet required by the Grand Canyon Act is completed no later than April 22, 2008. The NPS and FAA are providing joint Federal leadership to complete this task with the participation of stakeholders and tribal governments. The ATMP PO is the FAA’s lead for implementing NEPA associated with GNCP overflights.
4)    The Western Pacific Flight Standards Division (AWP-200) will assume all Flight Standards (AFS) responsibilities for the development and implementation of the appropriate policies, procedures, and guidance related to commercial air tours including overflights of all National Parks including GNCP.
5)    Once an ATMP has been established for a specific park, AWP-200 in coordination with the Flight Standards Service Director (AFS-1) is responsible for monitoring and enforcing each ATMP (see Volume 11, Chapter 9, Section 5, Air Tour Management Plans: Operating Authority and Federal Aviation Administration Oversight/Surveillance, for oversight/surveillance guidance).

11-402    INTERIM OPERATING AUTHORITY (IOA) FOR EXISTING COMMERCIAL AIR TOUR OPERATORS. Before January 23, 2003, any existing 14 CFR part 121 or 135 air tour operator, or part 91 operator pursuing certification, must have applied for and received IOA from the FAA in order to conduct air tour operations over units of the National Park System and abutting tribal lands. Applications from certificated operators must have been filed with their certificate-holding district office (CHDO), while all other applications must have been made with the Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) that has geographic surveillance responsibility over a particular unit of the National Park System and abutting tribal lands. Upon application for operating authority, the FAA is responsible for issuing IOA in accordance with part 136,  136.11(c). Submission of an application may trigger the FAA and the NPS to initiate development of an ATMP for the requested national park unit and abutting tribal land(s).

NOTE:  All requests for IOA after January 23, 2003 are new entrant requests and must be approved by the FAA and NPS at the national level. See the paragraph on new entrants in Volume 11, Chapter 9, Section 3, Air Tour Management Plans: Interim Operating Authority for New Entrant Commercial Air Tour Operators.

A.    Number of Flights. The IOA is subject to a limit on the annual number of commercial air tour operations that may be conducted on an interim basis pending issuance of the ATMP for a specific park. Determination on the number of commercial air tour operations that may be conducted is based upon the greater of the following criteria:

    The number of flights used by the operator to provide the commercial air tour operations within the 12‑month period before April 5, 2000;

    The average number of flights per 12-month period used by the operator to provide such operations within the 36-month period before April 5, 2000; or

    For seasonal operations, the number of commercial air tour operations that occurred during the season or seasons covered by the 12-month period before April 5, 2000.

B.    Requirements and Limitations. The issuance of an IOA is subject to the following:

    May not provide for an increase in the number of commercial air tours conducted during any time period by the commercial air tour operator above the number the air tour operator was originally granted, unless the FAA and NPS reached such an agreement;

    Will be published in the Federal Register to provide notice and opportunity for comment (published on 06/23/05 at 70 FR 36456);

    May be revoked by the FAA for cause;

    Will terminate 180 days after the date on which an ATMP is established for a specific park or abutting tribal land;

    Will promote protection of national park resources, visitor experiences, and tribal lands;

    Will promote safe commercial air tour operations;

    Will promote the adoption and use of quiet technology, as appropriate; and

    Will allow for modifications based on experience if the modification improves protection of national park resources and values and of tribal lands.

C.    FAA Approval Process.

1)    All requests for IOA/letter of agreement (LOA) and/or a change in existing IOA/LOA must be coordinated with and approved by AWP-200 for coordination with the NPS.
a)    Operators are issued IOA in Operations Specification (OpSpec) B057, National Parks Air Tour Management Operations—Under 14 CFR Part 136.
b)    Part 91 operators that have applied for air carrier certification under part 119 prior to January 23, 2003 were issued a LOA also located in template B057 of the operations specification safety system.
c)    Part 91 operators that wish to remain under part 91 and operate under exemption 40128(a)(3) are issued a LOA and must first secure a LOA from the national park superintendent for each unit of the National Park System where air tours are requested. The LOA must describe the conditions under which the operations will be conducted. Principal operations inspectors (POI) must obtain a copy of the operator’s LOA from the park superintendent, annotate receipt of that document, and attach that letter to LOA B057 prior to issuing LOA.
d)    Only operators conducting commercial air tours over designated units of the National Park System are eligible to receive IOA. POIs must select the park name in the B057 template exactly as that name appears in the National Park Unit list.
2)    Tribal Lands.
a)    Tribal lands that are within or abutting a unit of the National Park System require IOA ONLY if commercial air tour operation flights also fly over, or within mile of a national park unit.
b)    NPATMA is not intended to apply the requirements of an ATMP to tribal lands that are not within or abutting a national park.
c)    NPATMA’s requirement to establish an ATMP is triggered by an application for authority to conduct a commercial air tour operation “over the park.” NPATMA specifically sets out the contents that may be included in an ATMP for a “national park.” No such provision exists for tribal lands.
d)    The term “tribal land” is specifically defined to only include “Indian country” (as defined in 18 U.S.C.  1151) that is within or abutting a national park.
e)    The -mile boundary was implemented so that air tours could not be conducted just outside the park boundary without operating authority. Thus if tribal lands are within or abutting a unit of the National Park System and an application for operating authority for the park unit is received, then operating authority over those tribal lands is required.

11-403    DEFINITIONS.

A.    AVS Air Tour Management Plan (ATMP) Development Representative. A person appointed by AWP‑200 manager, responsible for AFS participation in the development of a particular ATMP and for performing any technical analysis and/or safety analysis needed.

B.    AVS Grand Canyon National Park (GNCP) Working Group Representative. A person appointed by the AWP-200 manager, responsible for AFS participation in the Grand Canyon Working Group and for performing any technical analysis and/or safety analysis needed.

C.    Air Tour Management Plan (ATMP). A plan required by the NPATMA designed to mitigate or prevent the significant adverse impacts, if any, of commercial air tour operations upon the natural and cultural resources, visitor experience, and tribal lands. The ATMP establishes conditions for the conduct of commercial air tour operations below 5000 feet AGL and within mile outside the boundary of a national park, and may include, but is not limited to, such characteristics as:

    Commercial air tour routes;

    Maximum number of flights per unit of time;

    Maximum and minimum altitudes;

    Time of day restrictions;

    Restrictions for particular events;

    Intrusions of privacy on tribal lands; or

    Mitigation of noise, visual, or other impacts.

D.    Air Tour Management Plan (ATMP) Working Group. An ATMP working group consists of: an AWP-4 representative, an AWP-200 representative, an Office of Environment and Energy (AEE) representative, the Chief Counsel’s Office representatives, and the NPS Regional Director and/or designated staff. Air Traffic and Airports Division Specialists may be used as needed. This group/and or its delegates will develop the draft ATMPs and applicable NEPA compliance documents.

Indicates new/changed information.

E.    Certificate-Holding District Office (CHDO). The CHDO is the FSDO responsible for managing an air carrier or commercial operator’s certificate. These offices are also responsible for issuing, monitoring, and assuring compliance with IOA and LOAs regarding ATMPs for national park units within their geographical office boundaries.

F.    Commercial Air Tour Operator. Any person who conducts a commercial air tour operation.

G.    Commercial Air Tour Operation.

1)    Any flight, conducted for compensation or hire in a powered aircraft where a purpose of the flight is sightseeing within mile outside the boundary of any national park or over abutting tribal lands, during which the aircraft flies:
a)    Below 5,000 feet AGL (except solely for the purposes of takeoff or landing, or necessary for safe operation of an aircraft as determined under the rules and regulations of the FAA requiring the pilot in command (PIC) to take action to ensure the safe operation of the aircraft); or
b)    Less than 1 mile laterally from any geographic feature within the park (unless more than  mile outside the boundary).
2)    In making a determination of whether a flight is a commercial air tour operation for purposes of this section, the Administrator may consider:
a)    Whether there was a holding out to the public of willingness to conduct a sightseeing flight for compensation or hire;
b)    Whether a narrative that referring to areas or points of interest on the surface below the route of the flight was provided by the person offering the flight;
c)    The area of operation;
d)    The frequency of flights conducted by the person offering the flight;
e)    The route of the flight;
f)    The inclusion of sightseeing flights as part of any travel arrangement package offered by the person offering the flight;
g)    Whether the flight would have been canceled based on poor visibility of the surface below the route of the flight; and
h)    Any other factors that the Administrator and the Director consider appropriate.

H.    Director. The Director of the NPS.

I.    Existing Commercial Air Tour Operator. A commercial air tour operator that was actively engaged in the business of providing commercial air tour operations over a national park at any time during the 12-month period ending on the date of enactment of the NPATMA (i.e., April 5, 2000).

J.    Operating Authority. Permission to conduct commercial air tour operations over a national park, or tribal lands, in compliance with an established ATMP.

K.    Geographic Flight Standards District Office (GEO FSDO). The FSDO whose district boundaries contain a specific unit or units of the National Park System and/or tribal lands.

L.    Interim Operating Authority (IOA). A temporary operating authority issued to existing commercial air tour operators who applied for operating authority before the effective date of the final rule implementing NPATMA. IOA remains in effect for 180 days after an ATMP is established. An IOA also may be issued to a New Entrant Commercial Air Tour Operator by the Administrator in cooperation with the NPS Director, if the Administrator determines the authority is necessary to ensure competition in the provision of commercial air tour operations over the park or tribal lands.

M.    Letter of Agreement (LOA). Letters describing the conditions under which commercial air tour operations will be conducted. One is secured from the National Park Superintendent and one from the Administrator (B057) for each relevant national park unit, issued to a part 91 commercial air tour operator permitting commercial air tour operations over a national park. The total number of such operations over each park is limited to five flights during any 30-day period for part 91 operators (that did not apply for air carrier certification prior to January 23, 2003) operating under a LOA for a given park.

N.    National Park. Any unit of the National Park System, including national monuments. This list is available in the B057 template.

O.    National Park Overflights Advisory Group (NPOAG). An advisory group created by NPATMA that is composed of a balanced group of representatives from general aviation, commercial air tour operators, environmental concerns, Indian Tribes, the FAA, and the NPS, which provides continuing advice and counsel with respect to commercial air tour operations over and near national parks.

P.    National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000 (NPATMA). NPATMA is a part of PL 106‑181 signed into law on April 5, 2000. NPATMA establishes provisions governing overflights of national parks. Portions of NPATMA include a public process for the development of ATMPs in cooperation with the NPS, procedures for granting IOA, requirements for existing and new entrant commercial air tour operations and conditions and limitations for conducting commercial air tour operations over or near any unit of the National Park System or tribal lands.

Q.    New Entrant Commercial Air Tour Operator. A commercial air tour operator that:

    Applies for operating authority as a commercial air tour operator for a national park or tribal lands;

    Is an existing commercial air tour operator and applies for new operating authority for national park(s) not previously conducted; and

    Is an existing commercial air tour operator and applies for an increase of operating authority numbers of air tours for currently approved national parks.

R.    Part 91 Commercial Air Tour Operator. A part 91 operator with LOA conducting commercial air tour operations over a national park or tribal lands under 14 CFR part 119,   119.1(e)(2).

S.    Part 91 Operator (applied for air carrier certification). A part 91 existing commercial air tour operator granted IOA while pursuing certification as an air carrier under part 119.

T.    Person. An individual, firm, partnership, corporation, company, association, joint-stock association, or governmental entity. It includes a trustee, receiver, assignee, or similar representative of any of the aforementioned parties.

U.    Superintendent. The duly appointed representative of the NPS for a particular unit of the National Park System.

V.    Tribal Lands. Indian Country (as defined in 18 U.S.C.  1151) that is within or abutting a national park.

RESERVED. Paragraphs 11-404 through 11-418.