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Congress Restores BARR in Funding Bill

By J. Mac McClellan, Director of Publications, EAA 747337

November 23, 2011 – Language in a comprehensive funding bill passed by Congress forbids the FAA from releasing the flying activity of those airplane owners who wish to block their registration numbers from websites that track flights.

Until earlier this year any airplane owners could have their N number blocked from websites under a program called Blocked Aircraft Registration Request (BARR). But then last March, for reasons that were impossible to understand, the FAA ended the BARR except for airplane owners who could demonstrate a very immediate “critical” threat to their personal safety, or the safety of the aircraft if the flight information was released.

EAA immediately joined with other aviation groups led by NBAA and AOPA to demand that BARR be restored to protect the privacy of airplane owners who did not want details of when and where they flew their airplanes broadcast worldwide. A legal action has been filed, but many congressmen and senators understood the importance of privacy rights and got behind the effort to restore BARR.

The so-called “minibus” bill approved by Congress last week provides funding for many federal government activities, including the FAA. The language in the bill ensures that BARR will be reinstated for the remainder of the government’s fiscal year, which lasts through the end of September 2012. Because the return of BARR is only ensured to that date, it is unclear whether the court action led by NBAA and AOPA, with support from EAA, requesting permanent restoration of the BARR program will continue.

It is assumed, but not yet certain, that the NBAA will operate the BARR program again. The way the system worked in the past is that an airplane owner made a request to NBAA to have his or her N number blocked. NBAA then passed on this list to the FAA, which demanded that any website or other outlet posting aircraft movements in the system block N numbers on the BARR list.

For a fee some websites allowed owners to see the location and movements of their own airplanes in the system through a password-protected site. It is assumed that owners who want to block their flight activity from the worldwide public will again be allowed to track their own airplanes through such a mechanism.

The united effort by all general and business aviation groups, including EAA, were certainly effective in convincing a majority in Congress to protect privacy rights. Whether your fly a piston single or a large jet, EAA and the other groups believe you should have the right to prevent the government from broadcasting your flight activity in detail to the entire world over the Internet.

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