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Keeping the Noise Down on Denali

Posted on: August 3rd, 2009 by admin

A "sound station" on the Ruth Glacier is monitoring the noise level of aircraft landing on the glacier. NPS Photo.

A "sound station" on the Ruth Glacier is monitoring the noise level of aircraft landing on the glacier. NPS Photo.

The Denali Overflights Council has produced a set of voluntary “best practices” for air tour operators in Denali National Park, designed to reduce the noise impacts of airplanes in the park. Charlie Sassara, past treasurer and board member of the American Alpine Club, is representing mountaineers on the council, which also includes air-tour operators and aviation officials. The Denali Overflights Council began meeting in early 2008.

In June, the Overflights Council released guidelines that “flightseeing” pilots and other aviators can follow—weather and other safety issues permitting—to reduce their impact on sensitive areas.

Two of these areas are of special concern to climbers:

1. Mt. McKinley summit flights. During the Denali climbing season, from late April to early July, climbers at the high camps on the mountain and en route to the summit are subject to aircraft sound from summit flights. The council is asking operators conducting summit flights to avoid the 17,000- and the 14,000-foot camps on Denali and to make approaches east of the south summit and north of the north summit.

2. Kahiltna Pass crossings. During climbing season, climbers traveling up the Kahiltna Glacier and camping at 11,000 feet on Denali’s west buttress route are subject to sound from aircraft crossing Kahiltna Pass. The council asks operators planning to fly through Kahiltna Pass to climb to a safe crossing altitude well before arriving at the pass and to avoid orbiting at climb power in or south of the pass.

Effectiveness of the flight-pattern guidelines is being monitored during the 2009 season, and Sassara said, “We will now try to look at additional mitigation measures to enact in 2010.”

For more information on the Denali Overflights Council, visit the website of Denali National Park & Preserve.