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Highway Law Keeps FAA in Charge of Park Airspace

America’s newest surface transportation law (MAP-21), signed by President Obama on July 6, softened a controversial provision that would have given the National Park Service (NPS) unprecedented authority over national park airspace.

A proposal from Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in the Senate-passed bill would have vested sole authority in the NPS to deny air tour applications. The aviation industry was worried that the provision would impact the FAA’s ability to regulate airspace, threatening flight safety standards. Many in the air tour business also viewed the amendment as a direct attack on their businesses and employees.

In its final incarnation, however, the law maintained the FAA’s primacy over national airspace. In a nod to the measure’s sponsors, the NPS will be able to deny new or expanded air tour applications to operate over Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains and Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park if the park director determines those operations “would adversely affect park resources or visitor experiences.” The law also requires Grand Canyon tour operators to employ “quiet aircraft technology” within 15 years and mandates the FAA to provide incentives to those that convert to advanced noise prevention equipment sooner.

~~~ posted 7/25/12 ~~~



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