NBAA has sent a letter to members warning that their ability to keep the movements of their aircraft from being tracked and reported by any of a myriad of Internet-based aircraft trackers could be gone by Feb. 15. According to NBAA, the Department of Transportation is considering a rule change that would make it much harder for GA aircraft owners to take part in the Blocked Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program. BARR was introduced in 2000 as a way for private aircraft owners to stay that way and keep business competitors or others from knowing where the company aircraft (which most likely is carrying senior executives) is flying. "NBAA has long understood that in the instant-information age of the Internet, with the flight-tracking software that web-based technology has made available, there are legitimate reasons why companies' flights should not be displayed on a real-time basis," NBAA President Ed Bolen said in the letter.
Until the notorious hearing when car industry executives were questioned about their use of business jets to fly to Washington in 2008, not much attention was paid to the program. But in 2009, a Web site called ProPublica won a court ruling allowing it access to the blocked N-numbers. Its investigation uncovered a lot of routine business travel and a television evangelist who used the flock's jet to go to Hawaii. NBAA says it's fighting the rule change but doesn't appear to give its battle much hope. "We will keep you informed of our progress; however, as of now, it appears new limitations could go into effect as early as February 15," Bolen wrote.