More questions than answers in FAA data distribution policy

August 6, 2013

The FAA’s proposed policy for disseminating data digitally to the public is unclear, lacks transparency, and should be reviewed and improved by an industry stakeholder committee, AOPA said in comments on the proposal.

The policy—published in response to a 2009 open-government directive—also leaves unclear how much of the FAA’s voluminous public information would be covered by the proposal. Follow-up inquiries have not clarified the issue. However, digital charts, currently undergoing a separate distribution overhaul, would not be affected, FAA sources have told AOPA.

The policy would not apply to information published via “FAA Web sites,” but by not identifying those sites, the FAA left vague how the agency planned the future distribution of a range of information including notices to airman, the airman database, aircraft registry information, weather data, and accident statistics.

The FAA published its notice of the proposed policy May 1, explaining that it was offering the policy in response to a 2009 presidential directive for open government that instructed agencies to “make information available in open formats.”

The policy would allow the agency to provide information access “over secure and controlled connections,” and would allow the FAA to “consider cost and cost recovery in making FAA data/information available to external users,” the agency said.

AOPA responded that the policy’s apparent effect might conflict with goals of a 2002 law to improve access to government information, and would likely require the FAA to dedicate more resources to managing an expansive vendor network.

“Adding additional barriers to obtaining data does not improve access to information as mandated by the E-Government & Information Technology Act of 2002,” wrote Tom Kramer, AOPA manager of airspace and modernization, adding that “not only will the FAA continue to create this data, they now must identify, vet, and monitor all of the third party vendors who might share the information with the public.”