2011 News

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BARR Battle Figured Prominently for Industry in 2011

December 19, 2011

Note: This is the first of three year-in-review articles from NBAA, chronicling the most crucial issues of the past 12 months.

NBAA Flight Plan podcast looks back on the industry's work to reinstate the BARR

If 2011 was a milestone year for the business aviation industry, one key stretch along the journey involved the battle over the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program.

Congress enabled the BARR program in 2001 and over the past decade, it has provided aircraft owners and operators with the ability to “opt out” from having their flights tracked by anyone, anywhere in the world, with an internet connection.

“Our Members registered concerns about privacy, competitive issues and certainly security issues,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen in an April 4th interview for the NBAA Flight Plan podcast.

Perhaps no one was more keenly aware of those issues than flight training icons John and Martha King.

“[Martha] has had people who have called hear repeatedly, like 50 times, wanting to talk dirty” said John King of King Schools. “We’ve also had people send us emails listing everywhere we had been in our airplane over the last six months. When you’ve been the recipient of this kind of attention, it makes you nervous.”

Restaurant equipment vendor Brad Pierce used the BARR program for a much different reason. His company, Restaurant Equipment World, makes extensive use of his turbo Cirrus on flights that have taken him from his base in Orlando to all 48 of the contiguous United States.

“Without the BARR, there were a number of flights we did not make to airfields right at our customers’ and vendors’ locations. We have gone to alternate airfields that are less convenient. We had to drive further from the airport and lost efficiency that way. That’s been a concerted effort to make sure any competitors that were looking at me and tracking our aircraft to see where we’re going would not be able to pinpoint exactly where my customers are,” Pierce explained.

In spite of protests from Pierce, the Kings and other NBAA Members, FAA moved to severely curtail the BARR program August 2nd.

NBAA and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) immediately filed a federal suit in the US Court of Appeals, demanding the program’s reinstatement. The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) filed a friend of the court brief in support of the suit from NBAA and AOPA. But before oral arguments could be heard December 2nd, lawmakers on Capitol Hill acted.

Language to reinstate the program came in the form of H.R. 2112, a comprehensive appropriations bill that includes language reinstating the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program. Shortly thereafter, government officials told a judge at an oral argument in conjunction with the lawsuit that they would no longer require the valid security concern for BARR enrollment.

 “I am absolutely thrilled,” Pierce said. “Now, I’ll be the first to sign up for the new BARR program.”

“NBAA and its Members thank the leaders in Congress for taking action to address our industry’s long-standing concern that curtailment of the BARR program represents an invasion of privacy, a competitive threat to businesses, and a potential security risk," Bolen said. “We commend the Administration for working with our industry to implement this change.”