is laying the groundwork to implement the new “Pilot’s Bill of Rights,” beginning with a new website that will facilitate access to air traffic data. President Obama Aug. 3 signed Sen. Jim Inhofe’s ( R-Okla .) Pilot’s Bill of Rights (S.1335) into law, following House passage late last month and Senate passage in June.
Nearly two-thirds of the Senate co-sponsored the bill, which strengthens protections of pilots’ rights in cases of FAA enforcement actions.
One of the key measures in the bill is the ability of pilots to access air traffic control data. Inhofe, who had his own run in with FAA for landing on a closed airstrip in October 2010, said it took him four months to obtain air traffic control information for use in his defense in an FAA enforcement action.
The new law requires FAA to inform individuals subject to investigation that they are “entitled to access” of air traffic data, including air traffic communication tapes, radar information, air traffic controller statements, flight data; investigative reports or other air traffic information related to the investigation. Since some of the data are held by government contractors, the bill enables an individual to request that FAA to obtain data from contract towers and flight service stations.
FAA is developing a Pilot’s Bill of Rights webpage, with a hyperlink that will be posted to its homepage. The agency says an individual subject to an investigation may obtain information on filing requests for the data, including the email firstname.lastname@example.org.
FAA cautions though, that such requests must be meaningful and made swiftly. “Because of the costs associated with storing air traffic data, much of it is destroyed or otherwise disposed of within a few days or weeks after it is generated,” the agency notes, assuring it will continually check for requests and forward any requests for contract data expeditiously.
Requests must include facility information and date of event. “Because government contractors may have a tremendous amount of air traffic data, it is important for the individual to provide as much detail as possible regarding the air traffic data being sought,” the agency says, adding, “such things about the aircraft operation as the local time of day, the heading of the aircraft, and its altitude will increase the chances that the appropriate data can be located.”