Some of the planes in American Aviation's fleet at Page Municipal Airport.
American Aviation has voluntarily stopped flying scenic air tours over Lake Powell while federal officials consider the company’s request to be allowed to increase its number of annual lake flights from about 400 more than 5,000.
The increase would put the company on par with West Wind and Grand Canyon airlines, said Bob Logan, American’s chief pilot and general manager.
“We want to be able to operate over the lake and compete,” Logan said. “We don’t want to compete in court, we want to compete in the marketplace.”
The Federal Aviation Administration regulates operations airlines, but American needs permission from the National Park Service to fly over the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
NPS Superintendent Todd Brindle said he does not oppose the request, but the decision is in the hands of NPS officials in Washington, D.C.
Logan, while acknowledging the cooperation of Brindle, expressed concern that the process might get bogged down in “politics.”
“I am optimistic we can find people in the park service who will see things from a realistic standpoint instead of a political standpoint,” he said.
One of the issues is whether a national recreational area should be treated the same as national parks, he said.
Logan said the company continues to operate in other areas—and in fact had just received its new operating certificate—but that the tour flights are the lion’s share of its business.
Meanwhile, City Manager Rick Olson, expressed concerned about the potential of American cutting back on its business.
The company pays $110,000 annually to lease space at the airport.
Olson said he would ask City Council to use tourism funds to replace any lost revenue.
The city spent $3 million to build the terminal and hangar to promote tourism, he said, and the annual payments are $205,000.
Brindle said the approval process takes some time because it involves two federal agencies.
Yet Logan said he is hopeful a decision will be forthcoming within a week or so.
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