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06 April 2009

Send Your Comments to the FAA

The previous post discussed the FAA's proposal to restrict public access to the Wildlife Hazard Database. This post will show you how you can submit comments about this proposal online, and provides an example of what kinds of comments would be the most effective.

The FAA invites interested persons to participate in this rule making by submitting written comments, including data, that deal with the possible impacts that may result from adopting a proposal. The most helpful comments are those that deal with a specific part of the proposal.

The FAA accepts comments online, by, fax, by mail, or you can deliver it in person. will focus on the online option. If you want to use another method, the information is provided in the FAA proposal.

The online portal for submitting comments is at If you put in the docket number (FAA-2009-0245) in the Search Documents box, you will be taken to a page with a number of options. To add a comment, click on the words "Send a Comment or Submission" or on the comment icon (it looks like a little yellow balloon).

Before you add comments, you may want to spend some time thinking about what you want to write. It is best to comment on one or more specific points in the proposal. I suggest that you take the time to read it over and come to your own conclusions. Below, I'll list the points that will be highlighted by

FAA Arguments and Objections

FAA Argument: Information about bird and wildlife strikes will not be submitted to the database because the disclosure of raw data could unfairly cast unfounded aspersions on the submitter. Objection: There are three parts to this objection:

1. Individuals who submit information to the database are not identified.

2. Assuming that it is somehow possible to identify the organization associated with one or more submissions, for example a specific airline or airport, then if someone makes unfair or unsupported claims, then that implies that there was a very poor analysis based on the data. A competent analysis would likely put the raw data in the proper context and neutralize any unfair claims.

3. According to the US government publication Wildlife Strikes to Civil Aircraft in the United States 1990-2007, only one in five bird and wildlife strikes are reported to the FAA's database. The FAA proposal contains no projection or estimate about what affect the proposed rule change would have on those who currently submit data, those who don't submit because of the current disclosure rules, and those who are not submitting for other reasons. Would the proportion of reported strikes go up to 25% if the disclosure rules changed? 50%? 75%? Perhaps it would drop to 15%.

FAA Argument: Releasing information from the database without benefit of proper analysis would produce an inaccurate perception of the individual airports and airlines and also inaccurate and inappropriate comparisons between different airports or different airlines. Objection: The fact that individuals or organizations may not understand how to do a proper analysis is not relevant because it is not the FAA's job to judge the competence, motives, or experience of those who may request data from a public database.

FAA Argument: Inaccurate portrayals of airports and airlines could have a negative impact on their participation in reporting bird strikes. Objection: As stated before, the FAA has no control over the actions of anyone who requests data. Inaccurate portrayals are always a possibility. However, the FAA has the expertise that should be able to easily counter any inaccurate analysis that unfairly portrays an airline or airport with a better analysis. There are a number of other industry organizations, including any affected airline and airport, that would be very willing to help the FAA to counter these kinds of unfair portrayals.

FAA Argument: The database should be exempt from public disclosure because when the FAA began collecting this data, it assured the entities submitting the data that the submissions would not be made available to the public. Objection: A review of the current online form and downloadable paper form for inputs to the Wildlife Hazard Database have nothing that promises that the data would not be available to the public.'s review of historical paper input forms going back to 1997 also show no such written promises. While the FAA may have made promises when the database was first created, the fact that for at least the last 12 years the FAA has apparently not made any promises of data privacy implies that they were not serious about their assurances made nearly 20 years ago.

What Should You Do Now?

If you want to make a comment to the FAA, do it before the deadline of April 20, 2009. Take the time to read the proposal and write down your comments. Follow the links given earlier and submit your comments to the FAA. If you need help or advice, feel free to contact

1 comment:

  1. This is pretty cool.Thanks for such an informative article.