BY STEPHANIE KANG
WASHINGTON -- The Federal Aviation Administration asked the U.S.
Appeals Court here to delay proceedings in a suit by a coalition of
13 air tour operators that are fighting the FAA's overflight
restrictions at the Grand Canyon.
The FAA, which limited commercial air tour operations to 136
aircraft within the Grand Canyon Special Flights Rule area last
May, said it found a "possible discrepancy" in the number of
aircraft. The FAA said it wants its records back and 150 days to
review them "to determine if a mistake has been made" and whether
regulatory action is needed.
In the meantime, the FAA wants to leave in place the existing
caps and curfews, which ban flights from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. in the
summer and from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. in the winter.
All this does not sit well with the U.S. Air Tour Association,
whose members filed the suit. "The FAA is admitting that it screwed
up when it implemented these new and onerous ... requirements,"
according to USATA president Steve Bassett. "The [federal] agency
is using the purported uncertainty about the number of aircraft
under the cap as a smoke screen to redo the deficient economic and
environmental analysis. We believe the only reasonable and fair
alternative is for the FAA to withdraw this rule entirely and go
back to the drawing board."