Business groups join fight against Barr limits

 - April 1, 2011, 8:15 AM

Although the words aviation and security usually conjure images of terrorists trying to do bad things to airliners, the FAA’s proposal to stiffen the qualifications for the Block Aircraft Registration Request (Barr) program has highlighted the need for security from more than terrorists.

As AIN reported last month, the FAA has moved to limit participation in Barr by requiring applicants to certify that there is a “verifiable threat to person, property or company, including the threat of death, kidnapping or serious bodily harm against an individual, a recent history of violent terrorist activity in the geographic area in which the transportation is provided, or a threat against a company.”

Flight tracking services obtain aircraft data through a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the FAA, while Barr is administered by NBAA on behalf of the FAA. Both NBAA and the National Air Transportation Association are opposing any change to the MOA, and they were recently joined by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Business Roundtable.

In a letter to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, the three business groups said that the new initiative is an invasion of privacy, a threat to business competitiveness and a potential risk for people traveling by general aviation.

“With this proposal, the government is targeting for broadcast the movements of those individuals and companies who use general aviation airplanes, but the situation could just as easily involve individuals and companies who use an automobile with an E-Z Pass,” they said, suggesting the FAA plan represents a significant security risk.

“The federal government should reject proposals that would facilitate the electronic stalking of Americans and American companies,” they emphasized.        

A ‘Dangerous and Anticompetitive’ Plan

Reacting to an inquiry from Bloomberg News, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen penned an op-ed for the online news service that appeared March 11, in which he characterized the proposal as “a ridiculously high standard, since people with ill intent rarely notify their victims before the perpetration of a crime.”

“No less an authority than the nation’s Department of Homeland Security has issued an alert based on Web postings that urge followers to identify and destroy U.S.-based ‘small jet aircraft usually used by distinguished people and businessmen,’” he wrote. “How can the same government that issued the alert think it’s a good idea to broadcast the location and movements of those airplanes and the people aboard?” 

Bolen’s article followed an interview on AOPA’s streaming video channel in which he agreed with the three business organizations that the Barr proposal was “dangerous, invasive and anti-competitive.”

In an update on Barr, Bloomberg writer John Hughes revealed that Martha King became the object of a stalker in 1995 when a man called 50 times that year “wanting to talk dirty,” according to King. Her husband, John, said that another man sent a list of everywhere the couple had flown their business jet for six months.

The incidents prompted the couple to block their airplane’s movements from public disclosure, John King told Bloomberg, because “people do become obsessed.”

NBAA issued a statement immediately following the introduction of the FAA’s plan, and it intends to file extensive comments on the proposal in the 30-day period provided for industry comment. That window for comment on changes to the Barr concludes April 4. o