A federal district court ruled that the public interest journalism group ProPublica can obtain a list of corporate-owned airplanes whose flight information was blocked from public view. ProPublica first sought the list in 2008 under the Freedom of Information Act, after the CEOs of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler flew to Washington, D.C. on corporate jets to ask Congress to bail out their companies. Those flights became known because the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides real-time flight information that the public could see. But the bad publicity over the flights led General Motors to try and stop the public from tracking its planes in the future. A little-known law called the Block Aircraft Registration Request Program permits companies to ask that their corporate jets' flight information be blocked from public view. The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) filed a lawsuit to block ProPublica's request, saying hiding flight information is necessary to corporate executives' security, and prevent disclosure of business trips that could affect stock prices or reveal information about potential deals to a company's competition. But the judge ruled against those arguments, saying they are overly expansive and are outweighed by the public's right to access taxpayer-funded government records. She also pointed out that even if someone were to look up past flights, they couldn't determine who was on the flight or what the purpose of the flight was.
By Anne Landman on March 01, 2010