Antique Aircraft Records Preserved

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The detailed historical record of the dawn of U.S. civil aviation will remain intact and accessible by the public thanks to a 15-year effort by a Minnesota antique aircraft enthusiast. The Herrick Amendment, named for Aviation Foundation of America President Greg Herrick, is part of the FAA reauthorization bill that is expected to be signed into law shortly. It orders the FAA to maintain the records of more than 1,200 aircraft that received an "Approved Type Certificate" between 1927 and 1939. Those records include technical drawings, test data and other information about the construction of the aircraft. In a podcast interview, Herrick said data was in danger of being destroyed by the FAA and was difficult to obtain by those who owned the aircraft because the agency invoked a ban on distribution of the material on the premise that it would violate the "trade secrets" of the current holders of those type certificates. Almost none of the aircraft are still in production and few of the original manufacturers are still around. The new law invalidates the trade secret claim for aircraft from that era. It's naturally of great importance to those who own or are restoring aircraft from those times but Herrick said it's important for other reasons, too.

"Beginning with the Wright brothers, the United States has led the way for aviation -- and these files chronicle the development of our aircraft industry. They document the very fabric of American innovation," said Herrick. "The accessibility and preservation of these files ensures an irreplaceable resource for present and future generations. It also allows vintage aircraft owners to maintain the continued safe operation of aircraft that are still flying." Herrick came across the issue while trying to get drawings for the tail of a 1937 Fairchild aircraft. After 13 years of court battles he finally got them and approached GA advocate Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., for a legislative fix. The result was the amendment in the reauthorization bill. The Fairchild is in Herrick's hangar, one of five restoration projects waiting its turn.