September 13, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
The effort to restore privacy to general aviation flights that can be tracked on private Internet sites using FAA data continues to gain interest in Congress, with a new bill that was introduced Sept. 12 by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and 13 co-sponsors.
AOPA and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) also are seeking court relief from the FAA’s May 27 decision to impose severe new restrictions on pilots’ use of the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program. Under the new BARR policy that took effect Aug. 2, a “valid security concern” is required for a GA IFR flight to have its registration number and related flight information withheld from public dissemination.
Pompeo’s legislation would require FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt to “prevent the dissemination to the public of certain information with respect to noncommercial flights of private aircraft owners and operators.” The bill would require the FAA, at a pilot’s request, to block the display of the aircraft’s N-number “in situational display data available to the public.”
The bill, which declares that no public interest is served by denying the privacy request under the decade-old BARR program, preserves access to the information for federal, state, and local government agencies.
“The FAA’s actions are part of the Obama Administration’s continued assault on general aviation. As a result, a stand-alone piece of legislation is needed to roll back this regulatory overreach by the FAA. The BARR Preservation Act would allow Americans to opt out of having their movements tracked by anyone other than law enforcement agencies. Preserving crucial privacy protection will ensure flight safety for many users in the general aviation community, which is a vital part of the South Central Kansas economy.
“I’m pleased to be able to offer this legislation in the House today, and I look forward to educating my colleagues on issues important to general aviation,” said Pompeo.
“We greatly appreciate the leadership that Congressman Pompeo has shown by introducing this important bill to protect the BARR program,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs.
On Aug. 29, AOPA and NBAA petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to invalidate the new limitations on BARR.
“We want the court to understand that this issue should alarm anyone who supports basic privacy protections, whether or not they ever get on an airplane,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller.
The FAA has until Sept. 28 to respond. Final briefs from the associations are due Oct. 12, with arguments to be heard thereafter.
Co-sponsors include Reps. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), Dan Burton (R-Ind.), Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), Billy Long (R-Mo.), Don Young (R-Alaska), Donald A. Manzullo (R-Ill.), Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), Bill Flores (R-Texas), Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), John Barrow (D-Ga.), and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.).
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.