Court orders FAA to quiet Grand Canyon flights

Reduced flights likely in the future


Robert Wiygul, Earthjustice, 228-374-700

In response to an Earthjustice lawsuit, a federal court today ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to take steps to reduce noise from sightseeing aircraft at the Grand Canyon. A 1987 law instructed the FAA to increase the “quiet” at the national park but the number of sight seeing flights has increased from 40,000 to 130,000, mostly during peak visitation season. During this same time the FAA decided to comply with the law by averaging “quiet” over the full calendar year rather than on a daily basis. The net effect was the FAA allowed constant aircraft noise in the busy summer months when most people visit the Grand Canyon. The court let the FAA know this wasn’t acceptable saying, “People do not … stay long enough to benefit from averaging noise over an entire year.” “For the typical visitor, who visits the Grand Canyon for just a few days during the peak summer season, the fact that the park is quiet ‘on average’ is cold comfort.”

The court also instructed the FAA to include noise from commercial jets and other aircraft flying over the canyon in their new calculations. The net effect is sure to reduce the number of sightseeing flights audible to park visitors.

Geoff Barnard, president of the Grand Canyon Trust, said, “It is going to balance overflights with providing a good experience for everyone who is visiting.”

Earthjustice attorney Robert Wiygul said, “This decision will go a long ways toward stopping the assault of aircraft noise on the average visitor to the Grand Canyon National Park. The Grand Canyon is probably the single best known geographical feature of the United States of America and we should not treat it like a subway station.”

Wiygul litigated the case on behalf of the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, National Parks and Conservation Association, and Friends of the Grand Canyon. Alex Dreier of the Washington DC firm of Hogan and Hartson served as co counsel.

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