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
National Parks Air Tour Management.
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
October 25, 2002. The NPATMA and part
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 ½ 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 planincluding routes or corridors for quiet
technology aircraftis 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
135 air tour operator, or part
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
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 OperationsUnder 14 CFR Part
that have applied for air carrier certification under part
to January 23, 2003 were issued a LOA also located in template B057 of the operations specification safety system.
91 operators that wish to remain under part
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 ½ 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 ½-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.
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 ½ 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.
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 ½ 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 ½ 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
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
(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.
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
(applied for air carrier certification). A part
commercial air tour operator granted IOA while pursuing certification as an air carrier under part
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.