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Too Noisy? Officials Want Feedback on Air Tour Management Plan Over National Parks

February 28, 2022, 2:00 PM HST
* Updated February 28, 12:08 PM
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Are helicopter tours too noisy over the Big Island’s volcanoes?

That’s what park and air control officials want to know.

The National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration are seeking public input on potential alternatives for an air tour management plan for Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.

The agencies encourage anyone with an interest in or concern about air tours over Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, or HVNP, to review and comment on the potential alternatives, which will be evaluated in an upcoming environmental assessment for the park’s alternative management plan.

The potential alternatives include no change from current condition, restricting minimum altitudes, reducing the number of flights, limiting flight routes over sensitive areas and prohibiting flights on specific days of the week. An average of 11,376 annual flights occurred over HVNP from 2017 to 2019.

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“The draft plan is based on public feedback received in 2011 and data collected since then. We encourage everyone to review the range of alternatives and provide feedback to this important project,” said HVNP Superintendent Rhonda Loh. “Our analysis will consider how best to balance protecting wildlife, natural soundscapes, wilderness character and visitor enjoyment with managing air tours over the park. In addition, we recognize the cultural significance of Mauna Loa and Kīlauea volcanoes to the Native Hawaiian community, and the need for a peaceful soundscape for cultural practices. As part of this process we are actively engaged in consultations with Native Hawaiian organizations, individuals and other consulting parties.”

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Incorporating input from Native Hawaiian organizations and individuals is an important part of this planning process. The agencies are consulting with those who attach historic and cultural significance to resources within the park.

The public has expressed concerns about air tours over the park that include noise, privacy and ecological and cultural impacts. The debate has gone on for years. The Hawai‘i Island Coalition Malama Pono, a non-profit “with the sole purpose of returning serenity to Hawai‘i free from tour copter noise nuisance pollution and safety from tour copter crashes” sued the FAA and the National Park Service in the matter.

In 2020, The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit returned a favorable ruling for the plaintiff, stating the agencies had to craft a new management plan.

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HVNP is among 24 national parks developing air tour management plans in cooperation with the FAA. Haleakalā National Park on Maui is also seeking public feedback on its range of alternatives.

Please visit this NPS site and this FAA site for more detailed information about air tour management plans. Links to meeting notifications, recordings and slide decks (where applicable) will be posted to the NPS site.

People can comment through the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website starting Feb. 28 until April 1. The NPS and FAA will consider the comments as they develop the draft management plan.

They also will seek public comment on that draft document.

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