Grand Canyon To Planes: Shhh!

The FAA teams with the National Park Service to reduce airborne noise pollution in Grand Canyon NP.
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The FAA teams with the National Park Service to reduce airborne noise pollution in Grand Canyon NP.

If you're not rafting down the Colorado, it seems logical that the Grand Canyon backcountry should be reserved as a place for quiet desert solitude. For a lot of backpackers, though, the quiet gets shattered by the frequent air tours buzzing overhead.

But that could end soon: The National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration are teaming up to create a plan that would reduce air traffic over the Grand Canyon. They've put together proposals to reduce airplane noise over the canyon by 10 to 15 percent. To do that, they hope to close some air routes, increase minimum altitude requirements, block sunrise and sunset flights, and give financial incentives to flight tours that employ noise-reducing technology.

Tours and other low flights over the Grand Canyon are currently few enough and quiet enough to meet federal law, but just barely, said Grand Canyon Superintendent Steve Martin.

"Our goal is to do that and to preserve the opportunity for spectacular overflights," he said.

The Sierra Club and other conservation groups lauded the effort, but Native American tribes and local flight operators that rely on air tourism for income are less than stoked.

"I'm really sick to my stomach on this," Craig Sanderson, of Grand Canyon Airlines, said to the group.

"It sounds like everybody is grabbing the airspace again, like in the old days with land grabs," said Navajo Nation Vice President Ben Shelly.

The FAA recorded about 56,000 flights last year. What do you think? Should the NPS and FAA limit the amount of flights over the Grand Canyon? Let us know in the comments section below.

—Ted Alvarez

Canyon to get quieter? (AZ Daily Sun)