Here is a story I just filed for tomorrow’s paper regarding the development of an air tour management plan at Mount Rainier National Park.
The FAA and Mount Rainier National Park have identified four alternatives for managing air tours over the park, ranging from no flights to allowing 114 flights long varied routes a year.
The release of the alternatives Tuesday is part of the process by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Park Service to develop an air tour management plan for Mount Rainier.
Five operators currently have authorization to provide air tours over and within ½ mile of the park boundary. Since January 2003, the companies have been authorized to conduct a maximum combined total of 114 tours per year. In recent years, however, park officials said operations have been below this level.
Vashon Island Air and Classic Helicopter Corp., both based at Boeing Field, are allowed 74 and 32 flights, respectively. Island Air Inc. of Friday Harbor and Rite Bros. Aviation Inc. of Port Angeles are allowed three flights, and Wings of Wenatchee is allowed two flights.
Last April and May, the agencies received more than 800 comments, using them to help develop the four draft alternatives now being evaluated.
The four draft alternatives are:
- No air tours allowed: Would eliminate air tours.
- Interim operating authority no action alternative: Would cap flights at 114 a year, aollowing two loop routes around the upper mountain. Allows flights by fixed-wing planes and helicopters.
- Existing flights alternative: Would limit flights to 55 a year along the existing counter-clockwise route from Puget Sound. Would allow a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet above ground level by 4- to 6-seat single-engine planes and helicopters.
- State Route 123 and southern route alternative: Would allow up to 114 flights a year, but no more than four a day Mondays-Thursdays, over the Nisqually-Longmire-Stevens Canyon corridor and along state Route 123. Includes time restrictions for when flights by fixed-wing planes and helicopters would be permitted, and varying minimum altitudes.
Any written response must be submitted by May 16. You can submit comments:
By mail: Larry Tonish, FAA, P.O. Box 92007, Los Angeles, California 90009-2007.
April 26: 6:30-8:30 p.m., Mountaineers Building, Goodman Auditorium, 7700 Sand Point Way N.E., Seattle
April 27: 6:30-8:30 p.m., Mount Rainier National Park Education Center Tahoma Woods, Ashford Headquarters, 55210 238th Ave E., Ashford
April 28: 6:30-8:30 p.m., Washington State History Museum, Activity Room, 1911 Pacific Ave, Tacoma