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United States Air Tour Ass'n v. FAA

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

May 9, 2002, Argued ; August 16, 2002, Decided

No. 00-1201, Consolidated with 00-1212


 [*1001]  GARLAND, Circuit Judge: As part of an ongoing effort to reduce aircraft noise in Grand Canyon National Park, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)  [**2]  promulgated a rule limiting the number of air tours permitted to fly over the Park. Two groups of petitioners, one led by the United States Air Tour Association and the other by the Grand Canyon Trust, challenge that rule. We reject the challenges brought by the Air Tour Association, but conclude that the challenges brought by the Trust raise issues that require further consideration by the FAA.

The history of regulation of aircraft overflights at Grand Canyon National Park is set out in Grand Canyon Air Tour Coalition v. FAA, 332 U.S. App. D.C. 133, 154 F.3d 455, 460-64 (D.C. Cir. 1998) [hereinafter Grand Canyon I]. We recount some of that story here and explain subsequent developments to the extent necessary to give context to the present controversy.

In 1987, Congress enacted the National Parks Overflights Act, Pub. L. No. 100-91, 101 Stat. 674 (set out at 16 U.S.C.A. § 1a-1 note). ] Section 3 of the Act declared that "noise associated with aircraft overflights at the Grand Canyon National Park is causing a significant adverse effect on the natural quiet and experience of the park." Overflights Act § 3(a). To address this problem,  [**3]  ] Congress required the Secretary of the Interior to submit to the Administrator of the FAA:

recommendations regarding actions necessary for the protection of resources in the Grand Canyon from adverse impacts associated with aircraft overflights. The recommendations shall provide for substantial restoration of the natural quiet and experience of the park and protection of public health and safety from adverse effects associated with aircraft overflights.

Id. § 3(b)(1) (emphasis added). ] Congress also required the FAA to "prepare and issue a final plan for the management of air traffic in the air space above the Grand Canyon." Id. § 3(b)(2). That plan, the Act declared, "shall … implement the recommendations of the Secretary without change unless the [FAA] determines that implementing the recommendations would adversely affect aviation safety." Id. Finally, Congress directed the Secretary to submit, within two years of the effective date of the plan, "a report discussing (A) whether the plan has succeeded in substantially restoring the natural quiet in the park; and (B) such other matters, including possible revisions in the plan, as may be of interest.  [**4]  " Id. § 3(b)(3).

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298 F.3d 997 *; 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 16535 **; 353 U.S. App. D.C. 213


Subsequent History: US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Airstar Helicopters v. Faa, 2003 U.S. LEXIS 2954 (U.S., Apr. 21, 2003)

Prior History:  [**1]  On Petitions for Review of an Order of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Grand Canyon Air Tour Coalition v. FAA, 332 U.S. App. D.C. 133, 154 F.3d 455, 1998 U.S. App. LEXIS 21588 (1998)

Disposition: Air Tour Association's petition for review denied. Grand Canyon Trust's petition for review granted and case remanded to FAA for further proceedings.


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