Skip to Highlights
Highlights

Primarily because of concerns that noise from air tours over national parks could impair visitors' experiences and park resources, Congress passed the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000 to regulate air tours. The act requires the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Park Service to develop air tour management plans for all parks where air tour operators apply to conduct tours. A plan may establish controls over tours, such as routes, altitudes, time of day restrictions, and/or a maximum number of flights for a given period; or ban all air tours. GAO was asked to (1) determine the status of FAA and the Park Service's implementation of the act; (2) assess how the air tour operators and national parks have been affected by implementation; and (3) identify what issues, if any, need to be addressed to improve implementation.

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Congress To allow more cost-effective implementation of the National Parks Air Tour Management Act, Congress may wish to consider amending the act to authorize the agencies to determine which park units should develop air tour management plans.
Closed - Not Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Not Implemented.

Legislation has been introduced in the 111th Congress that would implement this matter for congressional consideration. As of September 17, 2010, however, the legislation had not been enacted. The pending bills include HR 915 and S 1451--HR 915 would, among other things, exempt national park units with 50 air tour flights per year or less from developing an Air Tour Management Plan; S 1451 would make voluntary agreements between National Park units and air tour operators an alternative to a complete air tour management plan.
Department of Transportation To improve compliance, enforcement, and implementation of the National Parks Air Tour Management Act, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of FAA to communicate the agency's position to its district offices on whether operating authority is transferable or sellable under both interim and final operating authority, and if so, under what conditions.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

Based in part on GAO's work, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a national policy, effective December 15, 2006, and notified its district offices that operating authority is not transferable.
Department of Transportation To improve compliance, enforcement, and implementation of the National Parks Air Tour Management Act, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of FAA to establish a procedure for air tour operators to record and report to FAA and the Park Service the number of air tours they conduct over national park units, under both interim and final operating authority.
Closed - Not Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Not Implemented.

Legislation has been introduced in the 110th Congress that would implement this recommendation. As of September 17, 2010, however, the legislation had not been enacted. The pending bills include HR 915 and S 1451. This legislation, if enacted, would require air tour operators to report their numbers of flights over National Park units to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Park Service, under both interim and final operating authority. FAA has not taken action on this recommendation due to the congressional action.
Department of Transportation To improve compliance, enforcement, and implementation of the National Parks Air Tour Management Act, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator of FAA to clearly communicate to FAA district offices how to interpret, and thus enforce, the act's requirements for Part 91 air tour operators.
Closed - Implemented

Recommendation status is Closed - Implemented.

Due in part to GAO's recommendation, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a national policy, effective December 15, 2006, and notified its district offices of the requirements of the National Parks Air Tour Management Act for Part 91 air tour operators.

Full Report