HONOLULU (KHON2) — Aerial tours offer a bird’s eye view — often giving people a spectacular vantage point of volcanic eruptions that can’t be seen by land.
A new Air Tour Management Plan (ATMP) being put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Park Service (NPS) will significantly reduce the number of commercial aerial tours at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
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“Objectives of air tour management plans are to develop acceptable and effective measures to mitigate the significant adverse impacts, if any, of commercial air tour operations on the parks natural and cultural landscapes,” explained Eric Elmore of the FAA.
The plan also aligns HVNP with the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000.
There are currently 10 air tour operators conducting an average of almost 11,376 commercial tours annually according to HVNP.
“The agencies preferred alternative, alternative three, would authorize 1,565 commercial air tours per year within the ATMP planning area,” explained Danielle Foster from HVNP.
That’s a mere 14% of the number of flights currently done each year.
The draft plan designates no fly days on Sundays, establishes specific times tours are allowed and defines three designated tour routes.
While the changes are intended to protect the natural landscape and eliminate some of the noise pollution caused by commercial air tour, Elmore admitted it could impact businesses.
“The ATMP could limit potential future economic growth for commercial air tour operations and other ancillary businesses,” said Foster.”
Paradise Helicopters, which has operated commercial air tours on the Big Island for more than 2 decades, is against the proposed changes.
“These laws, if passed, will result in a huge number of jobs lost, repercussions of which are unfair and unhelpful towards the cause they are supposedly trying to support – environmental impact management, of which helicopters and their presence do not contribute as greatly as land-based tourism operations.”Statement from Paradise Helicopter President Sean Kling
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Comments will be accepted until June 20. The NPS and FAA will consider comments to help inform the final ATMP for Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.