FAA Asks for Delay of Grand Canyon Suit

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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."

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