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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Backs Release of Plane Registration List

(CN) - A federal judge in Washington, D.C., rejected a commercial airline association's bid to stop the Federal Aviation Administration from releasing a list of private aircraft registration numbers to a public interest group.

The National Business Aviation Association, which represents more than 8,000 companies, sued the FAA for planning to release a blocked list to ProPublica Inc., an investigative public interest group that requested the information in December 2008. The FAA agreed to comply with ProPublica's Freedom of Information Act request because it said the list did not contain commercial information.

But the aviation association argued that it did, saying disclosing plane details could help competitors track corporate executive travel and business deals.

U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled that the FAA's decision to release the list was not arbitrary or capricious.

"[T]he block list is a list of numbers only, unaccompanied by narrative," Collyer wrote, agreeing with the FAA's claim that the numbers themselves were not commercial information.

"The Aviation Association's speculation that the registration numbers might be used to obtain historical location information and that location information might be used for insight into the nature of a company's business dealings does not convert the aircraft registration numbers themselves into commercial information," she added.

The blocked list contains the name of the owner who sought to block the data from the FAA data feed, the make and model of the aircraft, and historic location tracking data, according to the ruling. Releasing the information does not provide instantaneous data on a plane's location, the ruling states.

Collyer added that releasing the list does not endanger corporate personnel, because the list only provides aircraft registration numbers, not passenger names.

The judge granted the FAA's motion for summary judgment and rejected a similar motion by the aviation association.

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