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Denali Flight-seeing Guidelines End First Season

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In April, a set of voluntary guidelines for air tours in Denali National Park was released, meant to minimize noise intrusions on backcountry hikers.  An Aircraft Overflights Advisory Council spent a bit over a year coming up with the proposals, which included asking pilots heading for the summit of Mt. McKinley/Denali to avoid two high-altitude camps used by people climbing the mountain.

A  "sound station" on the Ruth Glacier is monitoring the noise level of aircraft landing on the glacier. NPS Photo.

A “sound station” on the Ruth Glacier is monitoring the noise level of aircraft landing on the glacier. NPS Photo.

Likewise, Kahiltna Glacier campers have been subject to planes climbing to cross Kahiltna Pass, where pilots are encouraged to climb to altitude before approaching the pass.  According to the Denali website, these “best practices” are designed to safely reduce sound impacts in key areas, and are subject to refinement and revision as operational experience is gained.  The Park Service is monitoring the effectiveness of the measures; Charlie Sassara, who is a member of the Council, says that “we will now try to look at additional mitigation measures to enact in 2010.”

Crater Lake Eyed for Helicopter Tours

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UPDATE 3/25/10: The Senate has passed legislation allowing the NPS to ban helicopter tours at Crater Lake without going through a lengthy inter-agency process with the FAA.  The measure still needs to be approved by a House-Senate conference committee.

A request from an air tour operator to begin helicopter flights in Crater Lake National Park has stirred considerable local opposition.  The Oregonian editorialized against the proposal, saying that the rim road already provides suitable access to those who can’t hike far.  The same rim road is used by Leading Edge Aviation in its pitch to allow the flights, as they claim that their ‘copters will not cause any more noise impact than RVs in the summer or snowmobiles in the winter cruising the rim.  Others are skeptical that the choppers are really that quiet. Erik Fernandez, wilderness coordinator for Oregon Wild, says, “It’s embarrassing enough that we have only one national park and so little protected wilderness in Oregon. Desecrating the experience at Crater Lake with helicopters buzzing around would be tragic.” Planned air tours range include a half-hour flight that just passes by the north rim and two longer options that skirt other Park landmarks, including Grouse Hill and The Pinnacles. See local press coverage here, and Leading Edge’s tour proposal here.