The lawsuit over the Transportation Department’s plan to dismantle the Block Aircraft Registration Request (Barr) program became moot when President Obama signed an appropriations bill (H.R. 2112) on November 18 that contained language reinstating the program through at least the end of Fiscal Year 2012 (Sept. 30, 2012).
Two weeks later on December 2–the day a federal court was to begin hearing oral arguments in the legal action brought by NBAA, AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) against the agency–the FAA announced that general aviation aircraft owners and operators no longer needed to submit a “valid security concern” to the FAA to keep their aircraft’s registration number from being displayed over public data systems during flight. The FAA had moved to impose the restriction on August 2.
“As a result of language in the Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bill, the FAA is withdrawing its June 3, 2011, policy…of requiring aircraft owners or operators to submit a Certified Security Concern in order to have their aircraft tail number blocked from view on the FAA’s Aircraft Situation Display to Industry (ASDI) or National Airspace System Status Information (NASSI),” the FAA press release stated.
The FAA said that owners and operators seeking to have their aircraft tail numbers blocked from these data feeds can now submit a blocking request directly to the agency without stating a reason for the request. The agency immediately began processing requests under the new law.
Earlier this year, NBAA and AOPA filed a court challenge to the government’s curtailment of the program, and the EAA filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the suit. Following a hearing the morning of December 2, a government attorney conceded that the FAA would no longer defend its August policy.
The FAA said in a letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that it has adopted an interim policy, consistent with the appropriations bill, which will allow aircraft owners and operators to submit block requests while a permanent policy is being developed.
“That new permanent policy will be consistent with the appropriations rider and will remain in effect even after the end of the fiscal year covered by the appropriations rider,” the agency wrote to the court. The permanent policy will be posted in the Federal Register for public comment early this year.
Lobby Groups Applaud Barr Reinstatement
“NBAA and its members thank the leaders of Congress for taking action to address our industry’s long-standing concern that curtailment of the Barr program represents an invasion of privacy, a competitive threat to businesses and a potential security risk,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “We commend the [Obama] Administration for working with our industry to implement this change.”
“On behalf of our AOPA members, we thank those in Congress and the Administration who recognize the importance of assuring a measure of privacy protection to individuals operating their own aircraft,” said AOPA president and CEO Craig Fuller. “We are pleased to have the Barr program back in operation.”
“We appreciate the efforts of those in Congress who acted to preserve the privacy rights of aviators within the Barr program,” said EAA president and CEO Rod Hightower. “We also applaud the efforts of those within the aviation community who worked together on this important issue.”