A FOIA request was submitted to the National Park Service on 10/2/2012. The objective was to collect data that would aid in producing a clear/factual analysis of the air tour industry at GCNP. A FOIA response was promptly produced, and received on 10/30/2012. It included a 3-page FOIA response letter, and 19-pages of responsive data (spreadsheets for each fiscal year, from FY94 through FY12).
More analysis will follow, but for now, a few highlights include:
- based on a $25/flight fee assessment, this data provides an approximation of the numbers of air tour flights each month.
- the air tour operators may tend to under-report, as that reduces the fees paid to NPS while also diminishing the numbers that correlate with air tour noise impact.
- Operators have exited, and new operators have emerged. Eagle Jet Charter appears in FY02 (associated with Scenic Airlines). Maverick Helicopters Inc. appears in FY04, and is associated with Air Star Helicopters by FY05. Grand Canyon Airlines was purchased by Scenic Airlines / Eagle Jet Charter in 2008.
- there has been significant consolidation in the past eighteen years, from 23 air tour operators in FY94 to only 7 air tour operators in FY12.
- The vast majority of air tours are conducted by three major players: Papillon, Maverick/Air Star, and Scenic Airlines. Two other prominent players today include Sundance and Westwind.
- For reasons that appear to be related to seasonal accounting practices, many operators would report July or August data in the next year’s report.