FAA setting up data access for pilots

August 29, 2012

Pilots subject to FAA certificate action are now empowered to obtain relevant data, including radar and air traffic controller interviews, to help build their case--but quick action may be needed, depending on who has the data in question.

The FAA contracts with various third-party vendors providing flight service and air traffic control at some locations, and those vendors may not keep the data for long.

“Because of the costs associated with storing air traffic data, much of it is destroyed or otherwise disposed of within a few days or weeks after it is generated,” the FAA noted in a Federal Register notice announcing plans to establish a system for making data requests. “For an individual’s request to be meaningful, it must be expeditiously received by the FAA at a centralized location by FAA personnel who are trained to process such requests, and then it must be submitted to the government contractors before those contractors destroy or otherwise dispose of air traffic data in the normal course of business.”

The FAA will soon establish a “Pilot’s Bill of Rights” link on the agency’s website, where individuals subject to certificate action (including suspension, revocation, denial, or approval) can obtain details on what information is required to process a request for data. An email address is also being set up to handle data requests, which will be relayed to vendors as necessary.

Being specific will be the key: Pilots will need to provide as much detail as possible about the type of data sought and the facility in question, including the local time, location, aircraft heading, and altitude. Requests for data will be relayed from centralized FAA staff to the facilities where records are kept, and data that is returned will be forwarded to the airman making the request, the FAA stated.