VAI’s Position on ATMPs

Air tours reduce ground traffic and put America’s natural beauty within reach of all—including seniors, the very young, and people with disabilities.

Vertical Aviation International (VAI) supports the concept and use of air tour management plans (ATMPs) as a means of ensuring that commercial air tour operators can conduct their business cooperatively with national park units. When developed as Congress envisioned in its National Park Air Tour Management Plan Act of 2000, ATMPs reflect the input of all stakeholders, including representatives from general aviation and commercial air tour operators. Development of current plans excluded industry, raising significant concerns.

The industry is critically concerned with the transparency of the ATMP drafting process, operational safety, economic impacts, and public access restrictions imposed by the ATMPs.

  • The National Parks Overflight Advisory Group (NPOAG), a group established by the National Park Air Tour Management Act of 2000 that includes general aviation and commercial tour operators, was not at the table during ATMP development to provide advice and counsel with respect to commercial air tour operations
  • Excluding the NPOAG resulted in plans for the initial parks that contain clear safety concerns
  • The plans severely curtail the economic viability of air tour operators and the industry by limiting or completely eliminating flight allocations
  • ATMPs are discriminatory against visitors who choose to experience the national parks by aerial sightseeing.
ATMPs: Vertical Aviation Industry’s Concerns

Learn More

ATMPs: Vertical Aviation Industry’s Concerns

National Parks Overflight Advisory Committee

Examining the National Parks Air Tour Management Program (Dec. 5, 2023, Congressional hearing)

As Administration Limits Air Tours Over National Parks Without Community Input, Members Voice Concerns (Dec. 5, 2023, press release from House Committee on Natural Resources)

Air Tour Management Plans: Planning for Failure (December 2022 ROTOR)

Fly Neighborly

Haleakalā National Park in Hawaii at sunrise. The ATMP cuts air tours by 50%.

“Air tours are an important option to many visitors hoping to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience at our national parks and famous landmarks. National parks should be available to all visitors, including the disabled and elderly who rely on aerial flights as the only way to enjoy our national parks. Greatly reducing opportunities to experience these treasures makes no sense.” – Chair Paul Gosar, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, following the Dec. 5, 2023, Congressional hearing examining the National Parks ATMP program

Airspace Access Is Industry’s Fight

The economic hit to air tour companies experiencing limited or no access to airspace in our national parks may put them out of business. If that happens, their communities will suffer through loss of jobs and revenue, and the industry will not only face downstream revenue losses, but also lose a significant workforce pipeline at a time when it is struggling with a shortage of pilots and aviation mechanics/engineers.

The fight for airspace access is industry’s fight. VAI filed a lawsuit over access to airspace over national parks on behalf of air tour operators in Hawaii and stands behind the lawsuits filed by air tour operators in South Dakota.

VAI members: Learn more about the legal action underway.

Not a VAI member and want to know more? Join now.

Mt. Rushmore National Monument in South Dakota receives 2 million+ visitors a year. The ATMP cuts all air tours, adding to visitor congestion and traffic.

What VAI Members Say

“We as a company support the concept of an ATMP.  Safe, responsible operators should be directly involved with stakeholders to operate in ways that benefit the public, the park units and keep operators accountable. There is a responsible manner in which air tour companies can conduct business and work hand in hand with the park units to achieve a beneficial relationship.” – Mark Schlaefli, President and Owner of Rushmore Helicopters, Black Hills Aerial Adventures, and Badlands Helicopters and co-owner of four additional air tour companies operating in Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana

“Papillon … has had a proud history of serving physically disabled passengers. This included flying two of our own family members who had to battle with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy their entire lives.  Without the ability to fly them over the parks, they would not have been able to experience it the way any of us could here today.” – Jake Tomlin, President, Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters & Grand Canyon Scenic Airlines

FAQs

What is the National Parks Air Tour Management Plan Act of 2000 and what does it require?

In 2000, Congress enacted the National Park Air Tour Management Act (NPATMA), requiring operators to seek FAA authorization for commercial air tours over national parks or tribal lands. The NPATMA established the National Parks Overflights Advisory Group (NPOAG) to provide advice and counsel related to commercial air tour operations over and near national parks. Amendments in 2012 allowed voluntary agreements with air tour operators. Legal actions prompted the FAA and the National Park Service (NPS) to propose a plan in 2020 for bringing all 23 eligible parks into compliance within two years, but the development process excluded input from the NPOAG, raising industry concerns about safety and economic impact among other issues.

What is an ATMP and what does it do?

The NPATMA defines an ATMP as a plan to develop acceptable and effective measures to mitigate or prevent the significant adverse impacts, if any, of commercial air tour operations upon natural and cultural resources, visitor experiences, and tribal lands.

How can I comment on the ATMPs the NPS and FAA develop for each national park?

The NPS accepts written comments only on draft ATMPs, on the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) system at https://parkplanning.nps.gov. The PEPC sites for the respective park ATMPs indicate the time period for comment submission.

How will visitors with disabilities be affected by the ATMPs?

The national parks should be available for all visitors to see. Eliminating flights over the parks unfairly limits the ability of seniors, the very young, people with disabilities, and others to experience the parks.

How do ATMPs affect the vertical aviation industry at large?

The ATMPs limit or eliminate helicopter operators’ access to airspace over national parks, setting a precedent for challenges in other areas where helicopters conduct their missions.

If air tour companies go out of business as a result of the ATMPs:

  • Pilots and aviation mechanics/engineers will lose jobs
  • Suppliers and manufacturers will face downstream revenue losses
  • The industry will lose a vital workforce pipeline when it is struggling with a shortage of skilled personnel.