Goal: "Restoring The Natural Quiet"
Newly-issued FAA regulations aimed directly at Grand Canyon tour
operators in Nevada and Arizona will offer incentives to operators
who invest in quieter engine technology, according to the agency.
They're "the next of many steps toward restoring the natural quiet
in the Grand Canyon National Park," according to an FAA official
quoted by the Associated Press.
It's the latest development in a conflict between
environmentalists and tour operators that goes back to 1987, when
Congress ordered the FAA and the National Park Service to achieve
"natural quiet" in the Canyon.
In 1996, the government drew heavy fire from aviation
enthusiasts and tour operators over the FAA's suggestion to impose
mandatory noise limits. The government also further restricted tour
operators to certain routes through the canyon. If those measures
were the proverbial stick, then apparently, the government's offer
of incentives to operators who do quiet down is the carrot.
The new rules will encourage tour operators -- who fly as many
as 800,000 tourists a year -- are aimed at making the at least half
the park free of aircraft noise 75- to 100-percent of the time,
said FAA spokesman Henry Price. "This part is working toward new
aircraft and aircraft noise technologies."
The number and type of aircraft allowed to fly over the park
wouldn't change, Price said. Rather, operators using quieter
technology would qualify for more routes and fewer restrictions
more often. Details are still in the works, Price said.
How do the tour operators like the new rules?
"We've been asking the FAA for years to do this," Steve Bassett,
head of the US Tour Association told the AP. "Aircraft that meet
the quiet technology standards should get something back."
Bassett thinks, in addition to the 800,000 sightseers who fly
with his members now, quieter aircraft flying more routes with
fewer restrictions could bring in another 1.7 million paying
customers a year.