What started as a simple Freedom of Information Act request in August 2002 from the Antique Airplane Association’s Brent Taylor for drawings and data on the Fairchild 45 became a protracted legal battle that has wound its way to the U.S, Supreme Court and back to the lower courts. But it’s finally over, Taylor reports, noting a summary judgment by U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina could foreshadow easier access to Approved Type Certificate (ATC) drawings and data held by the FAA for those restoring antique and classic aircraft.
More than eight years ago, Taylor’s request was denied by the FAA and lead to legal action against the FAA and the now-defunct Fairchild Corp. in the pursuit of access to those drawings/data.
Even after a unanimous decision in Taylor’s favor by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008, the legal wrangling continued as the case was remanded back to the U.S. District Court. Then on Jan. 19 a summary judgment was made in of Brent Taylor bringing the matter to an end.
Judge Urbina’s decision holds that;
- Once manufacturer authorized disclosure of its materials, they were no longer secret for purposes of FOIA’s trade secrets exemption.
- Secret status of the materials was not restored when the manufacturer revoked its authorization to disclosure.
- The materials were not commercially valuable, and, thus, did not fall within FOIA’s trade secrets exemption.
This decision should help pave the way for easier access (via FOIA) to the approved data/drawings that owners and restorers of antique and classic aircraft need to help in complying with the FARs in the restoration and continued airworthiness of these aircraft, Taylor said.
“It’s been a long and expensive road but if it helps to ‘Keep the Antiques Flying,’ then it will have been well worth it,” he said.
The legal action was undertaken by AAA member Michael Pangia, a former FAA legal counsel now in private practice. Pangia has written an authoritative account of the legal battle, “A Quest for Secret Plans; A Journey Into the Land of Oz” available at AntiqueAirfield.com