There's a fierce dogfight in progress over the
airspace in Teton County, Wyo. Vortex Aviation Services, headed by
Gary Kauffman, is gearing up to begin commercial helicopter tours
over the county's scenic areas this summer (HCN, 8/14/00:
Whirlybirds will fly over Jackson). The plan has environmentalists
and other concerned citizens declaring war.
don't want him here, period," says Carl Schneebeck of the Jackson
Hole Conservation Alliance, which has filed an emergency petition
to the Federal Aviation Administration to keep the heli-tours from
beginning this month. The alliance cites a dramatic increase in
heli-tour accidents - and fatalities - over the last five years,
and points to scientific studies that document helicopters'
negative impacts on wildlife.
hopes to stop heli-tours before they proliferate in the area; it
has watched helicopters take over the Grand Canyon's airspace, and
hopes Teton County will avoid a similar fate.
But it's fighting an uphill battle. The FAA says it has no
regulatory authority in the matter, and implies that Vortex will be
cleared for take-off. "The FAA is there to foster aviation's
economic viability," says Howard Nesbitt of the agency's Flight
Standards Service. He admits that position often puts the agency in
direct conflict with conservation.