8900.1 CHG 22


Chapter 9  Air tour management plans

Section 5  Air Tour Management Plans: Operating Authority and Federal Aviation Administration Oversight/Surveillance


A.    Issuance. Operating authority is granted to commercial air tour operators as the result of an established Air Tour Management Plan (ATMP) that prescribes a limited number of commercial air tours over a park unit or abutting tribal land. When issued for any given park unit, operating authority will become effective 180 days after completion of the ATMP. Operating authority is granted by issuing template B057, part (b) as described in Volume 3, Chapter 18, Section 4, Part B Operations Specifications—En Route Authorizations and Limitations.

B.    Amendments. It may be necessary to amend the operating authority of a particular commercial air tour operator in order to accommodate internal or operational changes. Operators should submit requests for amendments to their operating authority to their respective certificate-holding district office (CHDO). It is in the operator’s interest to present full justification with the request, including representations as to the possible impact on safety. All requests for operating authority amendments must be coordinated through the Flight Standards Western Pacific Region (AWP-200).


Indicates new/changed information.

A.    Request. Operators that have been granted operating authority on their template B057 may request an increase in commercial air tour operations. Inspectors must coordinate the request with AWP‑200.

Indicates new/changed information.

B.    Coordination. AWP-200 will coordinate the request with the Western-Pacific Region Executive Resource Staff (AWP-4) and the National Park Service (NPS). If approved, AWP-200 will coordinate with the CHDO for OpSpec B057, part (b) reissuance.


A.    Mergers and Acquisitions. If air tour operators merge operations, acquire operational assets of another air tour operator, or change ownership, commercial air tour operating authority may be reallocated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on a case-by-case basis, and subject to all of the following conditions:

    Operating authority is not effective until the CHDO reissues the operations specification (OpSpec)/letter of agreement (LOA) reflecting the authorization;

    An air tour operator must notify its respective CHDO in writing with a request to reallocate operating authority with justification explaining the similarities between the previous and current operations (e.g., personnel, aircraft, park units, routes);

    The notification must identify both the names of the parties and the number of operating authorities per unit of national park involved; and

    Prior coordination with and approval of AWP-200 is required.

NOTE:  See Volume 3, Chapter 34, Section 1, Safety Assurance System: Air Carrier Mergers and Acquisition of Air Carrier Operational Assets, for additional guidance.

B.    Bankruptcies. If an operator surrenders its operating certificate or goes out of business, air tour operating authorities are NOT transferable to another operator without approval from AWP-200. These air tour-operating authorities will revert back to the FAA.

11-477    ATMP AMENDMENTS. Under certain circumstances it may be necessary to amend an ATMP. For example, updates of the park general management plan that propose significant changes in park use may require concurrent reevaluation of the ATMP. Any interested party may request amendments to an existing ATMP. The National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000 (NPATMA) and Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 136 allow for such amendments through the rulemaking process. Inquiries regarding amendments to ATMPs should be directed to AWP-4.

11-478    FAA OVERSIGHT AND SURVEILLANCE. The FAA Flight Standards Service (AFS) is responsible for oversight and surveillance of all commercial air tour operators. Each office with part 136 surveillance responsibilities must develop a safety and surveillance plan. (See Figure 11-19 for a sample air tour safety plan.)

Indicates new/changed information.

A.    Minimum Planned Items. A minimum of one planned item per air tour operator should be included in all principal operations inspectors’ work plans that have responsibility for commercial air tour operators.

Indicates new/changed information.

B.    Contact Requirement. Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) management personnel should also contact each National Park Unit Superintendent within their area of jurisdiction at least once a year to discuss mutual air tour issues.

Indicates new/changed information.

11-479    COMPLIANCE.

A.    Responsibility. The local CHDO or FSDO is responsible for assuring compliance with the applicable sections of 14 CFR as they apply to commercial air tour operations and the specific provisions contained in all types of operating authority, including LOAs and ATMPs.

Indicates new/changed information.

B.    Compliance Action Decision Process. All investigations will be conducted according to the procedures set forth in Volume 14 of this order.

C.    Coordination. Investigations into an apparent deviation from the provisions of NPATMA, a specific ATMP, or other part 136 requirements require notification and coordination with AWP-200.

Indicates new/changed information.

D.    Safety Issues. AWP-200 should be advised of investigations into apparent deviations from safety regulations.

Figure 11-19.  Sample Air Tour Safety Plan



FAA logo







Flight Standards District Office

Figure 11-19.  Sample Air Tour Safety Plan (Continued)


Record of Revisions

Air Tour Operations Plan

Attachment 1: Operator 1 Safety Plan

Attachment 2: Operator 2 Safety Plan

Attachment 3: Operator 3 Safety Plan

Attachment 4: Operator 4 Safety Plan

Attachment 5: Operator 5 Safety Plan

Figure 11-19.  Sample Air Tour Safety Plan (Continued)

Figure 1-1. Record of Revisions













































































Figure 11-19.  Sample Air Tour Safety Plan (Continued)




INTRODUCTION. The purpose of this operations plan is to provide a guide and procedures for pilots to enhance safety while operating aircraft on air tours. The plan will include, as a minimum, the location of airports/heliports, standard routes and altitudes and common radio frequencies to be used by the participants. In addition, safety procedures for high-altitude operations and rescue may also be included for operator use, if applicable.


A.    Participation in the safety plan is required by all operators and their employees. Pilots are ultimately responsible for the safety of the aircraft and passengers at all times during operation. Ground personnel should be responsible for safety during ground operations including loading and unloading passengers and escorting people to and from the aircraft. All of the above personnel should be trained in precautions to take during refueling operations.

B.    Each participating agency should designate one primary and one alternate representative to the council. These personnel should be the point of contact for coordinating safety and operations procedures adopted for this plan. These personnel should be given the authority to establish and enforce safety procedures within each entity commensurate with this plan.

FLIGHT ACTIVITIES. This plan addresses air tour flight activities conducted under visual flight rules (VFR) addressed in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91. The following regulations are included for reference:

A.    Operating Near Other Aircraft (part 91, 91.111).

    No person may operate an aircraft so close to another aircraft as to create a collision hazard.

    No person may operate an aircraft in formation flight except by arrangement with the pilot in command of each aircraft in the formation.

    No person may operate an aircraft carrying passengers for hire in formation flight.

B.    Right-of-Way Rules (part 91, 91.113).

1)    General. When weather conditions permit, regardless of whether an operation is conducted under instrument flight rules (IFR) or VFR rules, vigilance shall be maintained by each person operating an aircraft so as to see and avoid other aircraft. When a rule of this section gives another aircraft right-of-way, the pilot shall give way to that aircraft and may not pass over, under, or ahead of it unless well clear.
2)    In Distress. An aircraft in distress has the right-of-way over all other aircraft.
3)    Converging. When aircraft of the same category are converging at approximately the same altitude (except head on, or nearly so), the aircraft to the other’s right has the right-of-way.
4)    Approaching Head-On. When aircraft are approaching each other head-on, or nearly so, each pilot of each aircraft shall alter course to the right.
5)    Overtaking. Each aircraft that is being overtaken has the right-of-way and each pilot of an overtaking aircraft shall alter course to the right and pass well clear.
6)    Landing. Aircraft, while on final approach to land or while landing, have the right-of-way over other aircraft in flight or operating on the surface, except that they shall not take advantage of this rule to force an aircraft off the runway surface which has already landed and is attempting to make way for an aircraft on final approach. When two or more aircraft are approaching to land, the aircraft at the lower altitude has the right-of-way, but it shall not take advantage of this rule to cut in front of another aircraft which is on final approach to land or to overtake that aircraft.

C.    Minimum Safe Altitudes (part 91, 91.119). Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

1)    Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.
2)    Over Congested Areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle with a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet from the aircraft.
3)    Over Other than Congested Areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, or structure.
4)    Helicopters. Helicopters may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph B or C of this section if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface. In addition, each person operating a helicopter shall comply with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the Administrator.

D.    Flight Routes and Check Points. Standard flight routes are established in such a manner that aircraft traversing the route generally fly in the same direction and avoid potential head-on situations. Aerial checkpoints, identified by ground reference points, are established at each location where two or more aircraft might enter a route.

NOTE:  Noise sensitive areas within the area of influence have specific requirements regarding distance from geographic points. The minimum distance to be flown near these attractions is indicated on the attached maps.

E.    Radio Frequencies.

1)    Each air tour pilot should monitor frequency XXX.X in the XXXX area, and announce intentions on this frequency prior to entering a route. A secondary frequency should be available in the event the primary frequency becomes inoperable. In this case, the operator with the defective frequency should call the other operators and alert them to change to the secondary frequency. When the primary frequency is again operable, a call should be made to switch back to the primary frequency.
2)    Each operator should use a separate discrete frequency to communicate with his or her base heliport/airport during takeoff and landing. It is recommended that each heliport/airport use a separate frequency to avoid confusion during takeoff and landing and switch to frequency XXX.X when airborne.

F.    Area(s) of Operation.

1)    List Park Units and Tribal Lands in Flight Standards District Office’s (FSDO) area of jurisdiction.
2)    Air tour routes are shown by operator on the enclosed maps and include: XXX, XXX, and XXX Parks and Tribal Lands.

G.    Air Traffic Control (ATC) Services Available.

1)    XXX Radar Approach Control (RAPCON) is the primary ATC facility providing IFR and Basic VFR services to the surrounding area to include the area of influence described in this Operations Plan.
2)    When in communication with VFR sightseeing aircraft, XXX approach suggests an altitude of XXXX ft. mean sea level (MSL) vertically and XXXX ft. laterally from the monument. XXX Approach advises said aircraft of the availability of frequency XXX.X to advise other tour operators of their location and intentions.
3)    Tour operators are encouraged to contact XXX Approach on frequency XXX.X for traffic advisories when operating outside the area of operations or at high altitudes.

H.    In-Flight or Ground Emergencies.

1)    In an emergency situation, immediately transmit type of aircraft, call sign (tail number), location, nature of emergency, and pilot’s desires. This radio transmission may be relayed over frequency XXX.X, the operator’s base station frequency, or ATC emergency frequency 121.5 for relay and coordination of emergency response.
2)    The following agencies are available in the event of an in-flight or ground emergency requiring the need of emergency response agencies or vehicles:
3)    XXXX Hospital’s Rescue Helicopter: (XXX) XXX-XXXX.
4)    XXX Fire Department: 911 (XXX) XXX-XXXX.
5)    XXX Ambulance Service: 911 or (XXX) XXX-XXXX.
6)    XXX Police Department: 911 or (XXX) XXX-XXXX.
7)    XXX County Sheriff’s office: 911 or (XXX) XXX-XXXX.


    Operator Safety Plans

    Map(s) of National Parks & tribal lands depicting routes for each operator

Operator, Inc.



Air Tour Safety Plan

Each Safety Plan should include at minimum the following items. Operator and/or Park specific topics may be added to further tailor the air tour safety plan to each unique operation.

Fire protection procedures

Overdue aircraft procedures

Loader/Escort duties and passenger briefing

Refueling procedures

Protection of passengers embarking and debarking the aircraft

Any conditions the Park Superintendent requests

Minimum Altitudes over specified areas

Noise abatement procedures, if applicable

Specified Routes

Time of day restrictions, if any

Reference to applicable when completed

Copy of each operator’s B057 authorization/letter of agreement (LOA) as applicable

I certify that I have read, understand, and agree to comply with this safety program.



































RESERVED. Paragraphs 11-480 through 11-494.