By Russ Niles
April 4, 2011
The House version of the FAA reauthorization bill passed last Friday contains an amendment that would maintain the Blocked Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program and allow aircraft owners to prevent Internet tracking of their aircraft’s movements. The amendment, if it survives the conference stage of the legislative process in which the Senate and House merge their versions of the authorization bill, could trump a proposed rule by the FAA to permit N-number blocking only if a “valid security risk” exists. As we reported last month the FAA rule, whose comment period closed Monday, would require those asking to block their aircraft registrations to prove “a verifiable threat to person, property or company, including a 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.” NBAA mounted a furious lobbying effort and it apparently bore fruit with House heavyweight John Mica (R-FL).
According to The RepublicanMica, head of the House Transportation Committee said his amendment provides “privacy protections for airspace users” and the amended reauthorization bill passed 251-168. No Democrats spoke against the amendment. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood apparently spearheaded the FAA proposed rule and told the House Appropriations Committee last week that some business aircraft owners, like drug dealers and college athletic recruiters, are abusing the BARR program. “When I find out that there are people that are taking advantage of it for no other reason than they don’t want somebody to find out where they’re flying, I say that doesn’t work,” LaHood said.