Boston Globe Slams FAA Oversight of Private Aircraft

A two-part special report (Part 1, Part 2) published this week in the Boston Globe takes the FAA to task for its alleged failure to properly monitor and keep current its general aviation aircraft and pilot registration records. As a result, the article concludes, “A web of secrecy surrounds thousands of planes, making it nearly impossible to identify a plane’s real owners and hold them accountable.”

It claims that this “lax oversight by the FAA over decades has made it easy for drug dealers, corrupt politicians and even people with links to terrorism to register private planes and conceal their identities.”

Aircraft title and trust companies also came under the Globe’s scrutiny. The article describes these companies as a way for the real owners to register their aircraft without being identified. In addition, the state of “Delaware makes hiding especially easy for corporations of all kinds,” the Globe story asserts.

The FAA is constantly working to strengthen the integrity of registry information and is developing a plan to significantly upgrade and modernize the aircraft registration process,” according to an agency statement in the article. In response to the Globe report, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Massachusetts) has introduced a bill requiring that the “real owners of U.S.-registered aircraft be publicly disclosed.”

The article is not without flaws. For example, it criticizes the FAA for not requiring photos on airman certificates, although pilots are required to carry a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, in addition to their certificate. 

Also, reporters did not contact any of the general aviation associations that might have added perspective to the issues raised in the article. Comments to AIN from those associations were pending at press time.

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