Results 1 to 2 of 2

Thread: Some Important Information, Regulation, and History on Idaho Backcountry Flying

  1. #1
    SJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Kansas City, USA
    Posts
    15,494
    Post Thanks / Like

    Some Important Information, Regulation, and History on Idaho Backcountry Flying

    This white paper on Idaho Flying contains some valuable information and considerations if you are planning on venturing into the Idaho wilderness


    For the purpose of this report, backcountry flying is not considered to include off-airport operations or float operations, rather the use of established airstrips in and around the Idaho Wilderness areas.

    Over the past decade or so central Idaho has seen almost exponential growth in the number of recreational pilots who come to enjoy backcountry flying. As this flying has become more popular, associated risks have increased, and there is potential for more accidents and incidents. Anecdotal evidence suggests there are many mishaps that go unreported. In addition to increasing the risk for General Aviation pilots, increased use has also seen a surge in improper and/or illegal aviation activities in Wilderness areas, which have the potential to limit access to airstrips in the Wilderness. In Idaho, there are many such airstrips in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, and others in the Gospel Hump Wilderness and Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

    Explanation:

    The Wilderness act of 1964 prohibits aircraft operations. In the Frank Church Wilderness, the Act 0f 1980 allowed airstrips that were already in use to remain open and specifies the only access allowed is by horse, boat, foot, or air.

    Frank Church Wilderness includes:

    Payette National Forest (33.45%)
    Challis National Forest (21.78%)
    Salmon National Forest (17.81%) (now administratively combined with Challis NF, so that their total is 39.59%)
    Boise National Forest (14.06%)
    Bitterroot National Forest (8.18%)
    Nez Perce National Forest (4.68%)
    Bureau of Land Management (0.034%)

    The USFS and other managing agencies regulate both commercial and private operations, including rafting, horsemen, hunting, fishing, and other recreational uses.

    Commercial hunting, horse packing, rafting, and outfitting are all required to have special use permits. Private hunters and rafters are also required to obtain permits for one-time use (for example the lottery system used on the rivers). The USFS has attempted on multiple occasions to require special use permits for commercial aviation users (including flight instruction). The Part 135 operators that serve the Wilderness transport other users: hunters, outfitters, hikers, rafters, backcountry ranches that exist withing the Wilderness under the “Grandfather Clause.” The USFS has already closed airstrips and attempted to close others within the wilderness. They have also issued citations violating commercial aircraft operations they deemed unapproved commercial use at various airstrips in the Wilderness. A consortium of users has pushed back on the Forest Service over the years and continue to do so. One example of this was when the Forest Service attempted to close Cabin Creek airstrip when it washed out in a flood, and a concerted effort was launched by both volunteers and commercial operators to lobby against the Forest Service until they agreed to repair the strip and re-open it.

    The reality is the Forest Service has the authority to limit access, close airstrips, and require use permits if they deem it necessary. All users would be impacted, not just aviation.

    Local back country pilots and instructors understand and respect this and conduct most of the backcountry flight training outside the Wilderness areas. There are many excellent backcountry airstrips in areas that surround the wilderness and are not subject to the same rules and restrictions. Wilderness strips are used only during a “checkout” to a particular strip. However, many others do not follow that practice. This needs to be an integral part of any backcountry flying discussion, i.e. – Wilderness strip use should follow the regulations that the airstrips are the same as trail heads. They are access points, and not to be used for training, or for pilots to fly around and “bag airstrips” for the sake of landing and taking off at multiple locations inside the Wilderness. Additionally, fly-ins with related contests or exhibitions are specifically prohibited - see page 83 of the Frank Church Wilderness Management plan. Following is some background information regarding Wilderness aviation use in the Frank Church.

    The Frank Church Management Plan, Section III, I, 2) specifically addresses Aviation. Among the issues are aviation’s impact on other uses. For example (page 79):

    “The problems and concerns related to aircraft use are associated with the need to minimize the adverse effects of it on the Wilderness resource, Aircraft use and related activities, including air traffic, landing strip maintenance, and noise, all tend to degrade the wilderness setting and experience. The existence of landing strips, and aircraft activity, are used to rationalize other uses and activities that further impact the wilderness resource and experience.”

    Section C.5.2 (page 81) states the FS will work with other groups to:

    5 ) Reduce noise impacts of aircraft overflights .
    a ) Inform and educate pilots on wilderness protection.
    b) Work with FAA, State of Idaho Division of Aeronautics, and air taxi operators to cooperate in reducing low level operations over the Wilderness.

    The past several years have seen a marked increase in low level flying, formation flying, and “gaggle flying” in the Idaho Wilderness areas. Groups of as many as 15 aircraft have been observed flying low over the rivers, doing multiple takeoff and landings at Wilderness strips, harassing wildlife and other wilderness users, and generally not following any kind of safety protocols or rules governing Wilderness use. At times other pilots must make position reports regarding these groups of aircraft since the formation flights often communicate with one another on a discreet frequency, are pre-occupied with filming, and do not make position reports on 122.9. Those groups have caused problems by doing formation takeoffs and landings at Wilderness strips, and by parking large numbers of aircraft on small airstrips, creating a hazard for other aircraft and blocking access.

    The activities just described are not only bad etiquette, but present significant safety issues, and jeopardize future access for all users; those activities could be the driving force that motivates the US Forest Service to limit access, require permits for all aviation users, and even close airstrips.

    Another issue that has arisen over the past several years is related to videoing flights in Wilderness areas. Any Videos used for commercial operations, which includes sponsored You Tube videos, cannot be filmed at designated Wilderness strips (private or State airstrips in the Wilderness are the exception). Commercial filming as defined in 36 CFR § 251.51 is prohibited without a special use authorization permit. The USFS can interpret any You-tube or other video to be illegal if used in conjunction with a commercial application. This is violated on a regular basis by companies and individuals who use these videos, social media, You-Tube etc. to promote their businesses.

    Working together, General Aviation pilots can not only help mitigate risks, but contribute to sustained access by using Wilderness airstrips as they are intended. If a pilot lands at an airstrip in the Wilderness they need to follow the wilderness management plan use guidelines which specifies the strips are access points/trail heads. That means take a hike, go fishing, camp overnight, and help keep the airstrips open for future pilots to enjoy.
    Last edited by SJ; 06-07-2021 at 08:25 PM.
    "Often Mistaken, but Never in Doubt"
    ------------------------------------------

  2. #2
    SJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Kansas City, USA
    Posts
    15,494
    Post Thanks / Like
    One more thing - operating drones for any purpose is illegal in the national parks or wilderness areas.

    sj
    "Often Mistaken, but Never in Doubt"
    ------------------------------------------

Similar Threads

  1. O.T. A Little Idaho History
    By Richgj3 in forum Cafe Supercub
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 02-09-2020, 10:13 PM

Bookmarks

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •