May 27, 2011 By Andrea Snyder
Private-plane owners will no longer be able to cite privacy and instead must provide a “valid security concern” to have flight information blocked from public viewing, the U.S. Transportation Department said.
The registration number, flight path, departure point, destination and flight length will be accessible to the public unless operators and owners provide the Federal Aviation Administration “written certification” that it would create a security threat, the Transportation Department said in a statement today. The change will take effect 60 days from publication in the Federal Register.
“Both general aviation and commercial aircraft use the public airspace and air traffic control facilities, and the public has a right to information about their activities,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in the statement.
Corporate groups protested the plan proposed in March, saying security and business deals would be risked with public knowledge of their trips. Opponents included the Washington- based National Business Aviation Association, which represents 8,000 companies, ConocoPhillips and PepsiCo Inc. LaHood countered that many fliers taking advantage of the secrecy, including drug dealers, don’t deserve it.
Attempt to Block
Representative John Mica, the Florida Republican who is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, had sought to block the bid to require more public disclosure with a bill that won U.S. House approval in March.
The FAA requires business-jet operators to provide their origin, route and destination so the agency can manage traffic flow. Anyone who knows the registration or “N” number on the tail of an aircraft can use Web sites such as FlightAware.com, the largest tracking service, to see that information.
At the behest of aviation operators, Congress in 2000 directed the FAA to let companies block the flight data. They don’t have to give a reason. Operators of about 2,000 planes, making up about 5 percent of flights, take advantage of the program, Daniel Baker, chief executive officer of Houston-based FlightAware, said in March.