Local News

Tusayan Town Council Sides with Air Tour Industry

June 20, 2011

The Tusayan Town Council is siding with the air tour industry over environmental groups in opposing the National Park Service plan to quiet the aircraft noise in the Grand Canyon National Park. The air tour operators urged the council to adopt a resolution opposing the Park Service plan claiming the only thing it will really quiet will be local cash registers. By one estimate 300 people who live in the Tusayan area are employed in the air tour operator business and about 10% would lose their jobs if the Parks Service plan were approved, according to the local air tour industry.

At the June 15th Town Council meeting members of the industry pressed their case. Employees from the big three, Maverick, Grand Canyon Airlines and Papillion, all made urgent pleas. Brian Bruce with Maverick said, “We will fight this and we ask your support because it will affect the Town of Tusayan as well.” John Becker with Papillion said, “The devil is in the details; that’s where we find out how devastating this is to the air tour industry.” Howard Jackson from Grand Canyon Airlines said, “The proposal will have an effect on our employees...it’s a job killer.”

In May the Park Service presented the plan to the Town Council. The goals include:

  • Increases restoration of natural quiet in the park from 53% to 67%, by reducing aircraft noise in the park.
  • Allows for 65,000 air-tour and air-tour related operations annually (8,000 more air-tour flights above what was reported by air tour operators.)
  • Provides long and short loop air tour routes, with a seasonal shift in short routes at six month intervals.
  • Moves most nor-air tour operations outside of the park.
  • Moves routes away from many sensitive cultural, natural and visitor use areas.

Here’s a link to the Parks Service website on the issue.

The council voted unanimously to oppose the Park Service plan, because of economic concerns. That voted included Al Montoya, who works for Papillion. Oddly he failed to declare a conflict or even mention a conflict. Out of state land baron Elling Halvorson owns Papillion. In addition to employing Montoya, his other business interests also have him employing Mayor Greg Bryan and Council Member John Reuter. Not once during the debate over this issue did these three council members admit they get a paycheck from Halvorson. Vice Mayor Cecily Maniaci rents business property from him. She also stayed silent. With so many conflicts of interest in Tusayan, perhaps a set of clearly defined rules is in order.