NBAA: Congress Clears Spending Bill With BARR-Reinstatement Provision
Washington, DC – The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) applauds final congressional passage of a comprehensive appropriations bill that includes language reinstating the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program.
"We are pleased that by including this language in an appropriations bill, members of the House and Senate have demonstrated their understanding that the Administration's effort to curtail the BARR program paves the way for unwarranted invasions of the privacy of aircraft owners and operators, threatens competitiveness for companies and poses a potential security risk for people aboard business airplanes," says NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. "The BARR is a congressionally enabled program, and it’s clear that congress doesn’t want the government to limit it."
The BARR language included in H.R. 2112, which provides funding for several government agencies, including the Department of Transportation, is found in Section 119A. It states:
"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, none of the funds made available under this Act or any prior Act may be used to implement or to continue to implement any limitation on the ability of any owner or operator of a private aircraft to obtain, upon a request to the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, a blocking of that owner's or operator's aircraft registration number from any display of the Federal Aviation Administration's Aircraft Situational Display to Industry data that is made available to the public, except data made available to a Government agency, for the noncommercial flights of that owner or operator."
The legislation now heads to President Obama's desk to be signed into law, and the president is expected to sign the bill. Because the BARR-reinstatement language is part of an annual appropriations bill, the language will remain in effect at least until the conclusion of the current fiscal year. "In the coming year, NBAA will work diligently to ensure the long-term continuation of the BARR program," Bolen notes.
In March, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) formally proposed to limit availability of the BARR program only to parties who could prove a "valid security concern." In August, the agency finalized the new restrictions.
The specific steps FAA officials will now take to comply with the language in the appropriations bill have not yet been announced. "NBAA will keep Members advised as to what the passage of this legislation means for how they apply for or remain in the BARR program," Bolen says, "but for the moment, they should expect no changes to their status."
Also yet to be determined is the impact of the appropriations bill’s congressional approval on the court challenge NBAA and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) have made to the government’s plan in court. A full hearing on the matter is currently scheduled for December 2.
"On behalf of our AOPA members, we thank the Members of Congress for their clear commitment to protecting the rights of individuals who fly their private aircraft in the national airspace from unwanted computer tracking," says AOPA president and CEO Craig Fuller. "The action by Congress reaffirms the merits of the BARR program, which has operated effectively to protect the rights of our pilots."
"This is an important win for aviation and for the privacy of all aviators," says Rod Hightower, president and CEO of the Experimental Aircraft Association, which wrote a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the legal challenge from NBAA and AOPA. "Pilots and aircraft owners across this country should be proud of the work Congress has just completed in reinstating the BARR."
The decade-old, Congressionally enabled BARR program was established to provide aircraft owners and operators an ability to "opt-out" of having their aviation movements tracked by anyone, anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.
NBAA and other general aviation groups, joined by individuals and organizations in and outside the aviation industry, expressed alarm over the move, saying it represented 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 persons on board.
A bipartisan, bicameral group of congressional lawmakers has sounded the alarm and taken legislative action on the government's move to curtail the BARR program.
In September, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-4-KS) introduced a stand-alone bill, H.R. 2897, to preserve the program. Review a copy of H.R. 2897.
The introduction of Rep. Pompeo's bill was preceded by a similar measure, introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) the previous month. Review Sen. Roberts's bill, S.1477.
In July, 33 House lawmakers sent a letter asking Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to set aside his plans for the BARR. Review the House of Representatives letter.
In June, a similar letter was sent by 26 senators. Review the Senate letter.
For more information on changes to the BARR program, visit NBAA's BARR program resources.