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Friday, August 19, 2011

FAA Moves to Curtail Tour Planes from Buzzing National Parks

Posted By on Fri, Aug 19, 2011 at 4:15 PM

click to enlarge Fewer people may be seeing views like this.
  • Fewer people may be seeing views like this.

For passengers of local sea-plane and helicopter tours, nothing beats a birds-eye view of the the Point Reyes National Seashore and the Marin Headlands. For visitors to those places, however, it's a nuisance to have nature's quiet shattered by buzzing aircraft propellers.

The National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration are reconsidering current policies that permit more than 6,000 annual flights over the Bay Area's national parks.

And the government seems biased toward the landlubbers.

The FAA and the NPS have not taken an official position on whether to curtail the flights. But a new federal report lays out a factual case for branding the flights a type of nuisance that needs to be curbed.

According to the report, visitors to Bay Area national parks seek "the

apparent absence of any sound; or the rush of air over the wings of a soaring

bird; the gentle swish of the wind in the trees; or the overwhelming crash and

roar of the ocean on a stormy day."

Sea planes and helicopters can interrupt that experience.

"Air tour aircraft are by nature flying

low for sight-seeing purposes, and in national parks are often operating relatively

close to the ground in low-ambient sound environments," the report says.

The government has begun a process to reconsider the current limit of 2,900 annual helicopter tours and 2,190 airplane tours.

A new plan could reduce the number of flights by an unspecified amount in order to "prevent significant adverse impacts, if any, of commercial air tour operations upon the natural and cultural resources, visitor experiences and tribal lands," the report said.

We left a telephone message with Steve Price, who since 1994 has been thrilling customers with rides in his Sausalito-based deHavilland Beaver bush plane. We'll update you when he get a chance to ask him how a new policy might affect his business.

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