FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The fees for air tour operators that use technology to quiet the sound of aircraft at Grand Canyon National Park have been reduced.
The new $20 fee per flight took effect Jan. 1 for any of eight operators authorized to take visitors sightseeing over the massive gorge. Operators that don't have the technology considered to be quiet will continue to pay $25 per flight.
The National Park Service and the Federal Aviation Administration were required to come up with incentives for quiet air technology aircraft at the Grand Canyon as part of a massive transportation bill passed in 2012.
Hikers and tourists on the ground have complained that aircraft noise interferes with the feeling of solitude and appreciation of nature.
"Any kind of a reduction from noise is going to provide a better experience for park visitors," said park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge. "It's not quiet but it's quieter than the standard technology."
The FAA determines whether aircraft is considered quiet using a formula that takes into account noise certification levels and number of seats. About 60 percent of the aircraft conducting tours at the Grand Canyon already meet that standard, Oltrogge said. At full conversion, the reduced fee would save the operators $250,000 a year, she said.
Quiet technology is in use at other national parks, including Volcanoes and Haleakala in Hawaii and the Statue of Liberty in New York, according to the FAA.
The standard doesn't necessarily mean aircraft will be completely quiet. Operators could, for example, add more seats to existing aircraft or switch out engines to meet the definition of quiet technology.