Volume 11 FLIGHT
Chapter 8 Air tour
Section 1 Air Tour
Management Plans: Background and General Information
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.
The National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000. 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 ½ mile of a unit of the national park
system or adjacent tribal lands.
Air Tour Management Plan. 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
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
AIR 21 was signed into public law (P.L. 106‑181) on April 5, 2000.
Title VIII of AIR 21, called the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of
2000, 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.
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); or
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.
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).
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.
The National Parks Overflights Act of 1987 (P.L. 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.
The Western Pacific Flight Standards Division, AWP-200 will assume
all Flight Standards 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 Grand Canyon
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 8, Section 5, Air Tour Management Plans: Operating
Authority and Federal Aviation Administration Oversight/Surveillance, for
11-276 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
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 8, Section 3, Air Tour Management Plans:
Interim Operating Authority for New Entrant Commercial Air Tour Operators.
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,
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.
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
Will allow for modifications based on experience if the
modification improves protection of national park resources and values and
of tribal lands.
FAA Approval Process.
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.
Operators are issued IOA in operations specification (OpSpec) B057,
National Parks Air Tour Management Operations—Under 14 CFR
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.
Part 91 operators that wish to remain under
part 91 and operate under exemption 40128(a)(3) are issued a letter of
agreement and must first secure a letter of agreement 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.
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.
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 one‑half mile of a national park unit.
NPATMA is not intended to apply the requirements of an ATMP to tribal
lands that are not within or abutting a national park.
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.
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.
The 1/2‑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.
AVS ATMP Development Representative. A person appointed by
AWP‑200 manager, responsible for Flight Standards participation in the
development of a particular ATMP and for performing any technical analysis
and/or safety analysis needed.
AVS Grand Canyon National Park Working Group Representative.
A person appointed by the AWP‑200 manager, responsible for Flight
Standards participation in the Grand Canyon Working Group and for performing
any technical analysis and/or safety analysis needed.
Air Tour Management Plan. 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
one‑half 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.
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
Certificate‑Holding District Office. The CHDO is the FSDO
responsible for managing an air carrier or commercial operator’s
certificate. These offices are also responsible for issuing, monitoring,
compliance, and enforcement of IOA and LOAs regarding ATMPs for national
park units within their geographical office boundaries.
Commercial Air Tour Operator. Any person who
conducts a commercial air tour operation.
Commercial Air Tour Operation.
Any flight, conducted for compensation or hire in a powered aircraft
where a purpose of the flight is sightseeing within one‑half mile outside
the boundary of any national park or over abutting tribal lands, during
which the aircraft flies:
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 to take
action to ensure the safe operation of the aircraft); or
Less than 1 mile laterally from any geographic feature within the
park (unless more than one‑half mile outside the boundary).
In making a determination of whether a flight is a commercial air
tour operation for purposes of this section, the Administrator may consider:
Whether there was a holding out to the public of willingness to
conduct a sightseeing flight for compensation or hire;
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;
The area of operation;
The frequency of flights conducted by the person offering the flight;
The route of the flight;
The inclusion of sightseeing flights as part of any travel
arrangement package offered by the person offering the flight;
Whether the flight would have been canceled based on poor visibility
of the surface below the route of the flight; and
Any other factors that the Administrator and the Director consider
Director. The Director of the NPS.
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).
Operating Authority. Permission to conduct commercial air
tour operations over a national park, or tribal lands, in compliance with an
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.
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.
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.
National Park. Any unit of the National Park System,
including national monuments. This list is available in the B057 template.
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.
NPATMA. NPATMA is a part of Public Law 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
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
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(e)(2).
Part 91 Operator (applied for air carrier
part 91 existing commercial air tour operator granted IOA while pursuing
certification as an air carrier under
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.
Superintendent. The duly appointed representative of the
NPS for a particular unit of the National Park System.
Tribal Lands. Indian Country (as defined in 18 U.S.C.
§ 1151) that is within or abutting a national park.
RESERVED. Paragraphs 11-278 through 11-292.