Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out capability in most business aircraft will be mandatory starting on January 1, 2020, but there are privacy concerns that have still not been fully addressed. With the proliferation of relatively inexpensive ADS-B receivers, your real-time and historical flight information is likely available to anyone at little or no cost. This data is often available even if you have blocked your aircraft from tracking with the FAA. At this point there is no comprehensive fix for the problem, but there are steps you can take minimize the public exposure of your flight data.
What Can be Done?
Blocking ASDI/TFMData with the FAA
Although they have not yet identified a fix for dealing with ADS-B data, the FAA does allow operators to block their registration number from the near real-time FAA flight data feed available via the TFMData service (formerly the FAA’s Aircraft Situation Display for Industry (ASDI)). Information on how to request blocking your N-Number from this feed can be found here.
Blocking Access to ADS-B Data
There are two main sources of ADS-B data: data collected by the FAA, and data collected by individual and commercial ADS-B receivers. While the FAA data is subject to some control, at this point there is no means to block an individual from using a relatively inexpensive receiver to collect ADS-B data on arrivals and departures at your local airport. NBAA is working with the FAA on a proposal to attempt to address this issue, but it is not yet in place. In the meantime you can work directly with certain flight tracking websites to block your information on their site.
Assessing Data Tied to Your Registration Number
While it is impossible to completely block all access to live and historical flight tracking data, it is possible to limit the amount of information tied to your registration number. Limiting the amount of information tied to your N-Number will help prevent a researcher from tying your flight history to the identity of the operator or the identity of the passengers.
- Careful selection of the registered owner and contact information for that owner is one area where privacy can be built in. There are many options including trusts, sole purpose entities, and others, but each option comes with unique FAA and tax consequences that should be considered in light of the operational structure.
- Careful consideration of information that is made public during the purchase of your aircraft is another area on which to focus.
Lori N. McGee is a partner with the law firm of Jetstream Aviation Law and counsels clients on the acquisition, financing and operation of corporate jets operated under Part 91 and Part 135 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Jetstream Aviation Law can be found at www.JetstreamLaw.com.