FAA revises flight-data blocking rules

May 14, 2012

After a mandate from Congress last year, the FAA had to reverse a policy of publicly disseminating private aircraft flight data; now it is going a step further by publishing new procedures that would give owners and operators broader control over their flight information’s disclosure. The agency will accept comments on its notice of proposed process until June 8.

AOPA is reviewing the proposal and will submit comments on the revised processes for dissemination of flight data via the Aircraft Situation Display to Industry (ASDI) program. An interim policy was published last December after Congress prevented the FAA from pursuing a 2011 policy of restricting aircraft owners’ ability to shield flight information without a “certified security concern.”

Under processes published May 9, the FAA would manage two levels at which an aircraft owner or operator could block data release: at the FAA source, or at the industry level.

Blocking data at the FAA source level would prevent release to the public, but would make “unfiltered” data available to other government agencies. Aircraft owners or operators would be unable to track their aircraft or grant that ability to others.

An industry-level data block would allow an operator to contract with an ASDI data subscriber to reveal data as authorized by the operator.

“Under this procedure, owners and operators should be aware that the FAA will provide unfiltered information to all subscribers who receive ASDI data directly from the FAA (direct subscribers), with the instruction that those subscribers are to block the designated aircraft unless the subscriber reaches a contrary agreement with a blocked aircraft’s owner or operator,” according to the proposal.

Aircraft currently being blocked at the requests of their owners and operators will remain blocked under the new rules without having to reapply unless the owner wishes to change the blocking status or level, the FAA said.

The FAA said it would continue accept information at the previous addresses for this program. But because the “nature” of the program will change, it has established a new primary electronic mailbox for all aircraft blocking and unblocking requests and inquiries, it said. The FAA also will accept information submitted by regular mail at FAA ASDI Blocking Request; ATO System Operations Services, AJR-0; Wilbur Wright Building, Room 3E1500; 600 Independence Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20597. 

The FAA said that requests for ASDI blocking should include the name of the requestor; the registration number(s) of the aircraft to be blocked or unblocked; a certification that the requestor is the owner or operator of the specified aircraft; a telephone number and email address to which the FAA can direct questions about the request; and for a request to block one or more aircraft, a statement indicating whether the requestor desires ASDI blocking at the FAA source or at the industry level.

With the publication of proposed processes for moving the data blocking back from interim to permanent status, the FAA has responded to congressional action prohibiting the agency from restricting the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program only to use by owners and operators with a certified security concern.

The FAA set off an outcry from the aviation industry on June 3, 2011, with publication of that requirement. AOPA and other aviation organizations opposed the policy, pointing out that it infringed privacy of general aviation flight and hindered business competitiveness by disclosing details of executive travel.

The issue was headed for action in federal court when Congress reversed the FAA with language added to an appropriations bill that was signed into law Nov.18, 2011.

Members are encouraged to comment on the proposed procedures by June 8 online, referring to docket number FAA–2011–0183, or by mail to Docket Operations, U.S. Department of Transportation, M–30, Room W12–140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590–0001.

Please also share comments with AOPA.