GA’s alphabet groups moved ahead with a court challenge to the Department of Transportation’s decision to dismantle the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program Wednesday.
A formal notice of appeal has been filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, according to AOPA officials, who added that notice will be followed by a motion to prevent DOT from making any changes in current practice pending the court’s consideration of the appeal. Government officials put forth their plan for curtailing the BARR in a June 3 filing in the Federal Register. BARR allowed private aircraft owners to block information about their flight plans, including destinations and routes, from being broadcast to the public. DOT now says that all information should be public, unless an aircraft owner can prove that showing that information could create a security risk.
Officials with both organizations said the legal filing is needed to preserve the BARR program, which was enabled by congress so that GA aircraft owners and operators could “opt out” of having their aviation movements broadcast over the internet. The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), recognizing the threat to personal privacy, plans to support the legal challenge being mounted by NBAA and AOPA.
“As we have said, the DOT has chosen to look past the overwhelming number of principled objections to its plans for eliminating a program that has reliably served the general aviation community for more than a decade,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “The government’s plan sets the stage for anyone with an internet connection – terrorists, cyber-stalkers, paparazzi, criminals, business competitors – to follow the movements of citizens and companies in real time. The situation represents an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of aircraft owners and operators, a threat to the competitiveness of U.S. companies and a potential security risk to the persons aboard the aircraft, and we are confident the court will agree with this assessment.”
“The government’s position is akin to saying anyone with an internet connection has more of a right to know when you go through a toll booth using a Fast Pass-type device than you do to privacy,” added AOPA President and CEO Craig Fuller. “This is not about whether or not we pilots can hide our aircrafts’ whereabouts from the government. We can’t, nor do we wish to. Aviation and security officials have always had real-time access to aircraft movements. Rather, it’s about whether a privately owned vehicle can move freely about a transportation system held in public trust without broadcasting its exact location to the entire world against the will of the owner and operator.”
EAA President and CEO Rod Hightower agreed, adding: “Many EAA members fly primarily recreationally, and they also have made clear to us that they view the government’s action as an unwarranted intrusion and a dangerous precedent. Therefore, we fully support the legal efforts of our fellow aviators and associations.”
Bolen and Fuller also announced that in response to requests from NBAA and AOPA members, a fund has been established for the industry to demonstrate its support to the legal challenge.
“A large number of people from the GA community have asked for ways they can support this effort, and the creation of this fund provides another means for them to do so,” Bolen said.
“Our members have made clear that they want to be involved, and they want AOPA to be involved,” added Fuller. “This fight will require the coordinated efforts and collective resources of the broad general aviation community, and anyone else who is interested in preserving a right to privacy.”
Contributions to the BARR Legal Defense Fund can be made by sending a check made out to BARR Legal Defense Fund via postal delivery to: BARR Legal Defense Fund, c/o NBAA and AOPA, P.O. Box 33788, Washington, DC 20033-3788.
“We are dedicated to doing everything we can to stop the DOT’s plan to disable the BARR, and today, we’re taking another step to honor that commitment,” Bolen said. “We know that getting on an airplane shouldn’t be tantamount to forfeiting basic privacy protections, and on behalf of the general aviation community, that’s the case we’re going to make with the court. We look forward to having the support of those in the industry who likewise view privacy as a fundamental right.”