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Know the West

The Latest: New incentives for quieter aircraft in the Grand Canyon

More commercial flights are expected this year, if they meet federal noise standards.


The 1987 National Parks Overflights Act prohibited below-the-rim flights and was supposed to restore peacefulness to the Grand Canyon and other parks. But only a few flight restrictions have been implemented since then. A 2011 plan would have required aircraft to fly at a higher altitude and restore “natural quiet” to as much as 67 percent of the Grand Canyon (“Park Service finally drafts a solution to conflicts over canyon flights,” HCN, 6/13/11). That plan was tabled when 2012 legislation required restoration of quiet to just half of the park.

Starting last year, the Obama administration began offering incentives for commercial plane and helicopter operators to use, or convert to, “quiet technology.” A law implemented in April allows more flights in the Dragon and Zuni Point corridors, as long as the aircraft don’t exceed federal noise standards. It’s expected to draw thousands more flights this year. Some environmentalists doubt the technology will reduce the overall level of noise in the canyon.