What started as a simple FOIA request on 08-22-02 became a protracted legal battle that has wound it's way up through the US Supreme Court (see attached article) and back to the lower courts. But it is finally over. A summary judgment, by US District Court Judge Ricardo M. Urbina, could foreshadow easier access to Approved Type Certificate (ATC) drawings/data held by the FAA, for those restoring antique/classic aircraft.
This particular case involved AAA Executive Director Brent Taylor's FOIA request for the Fairchild 45 drawings/data. That request was denied by the FAA and lead to legal action against the FAA and the Fairchild Corporation (now defunct) in the pursuit of access to those drawings/data.
That legal action against Fairchild and the FAA was undertaken for Brent Taylor by AAA member Michael J. Pangia, a former FAA legal counsel now in private practice. Mike has written an authoritative account of that legal battle titled "A Quest for Secret Plans; A Journey Into the Land of Oz".
However, even after a unanimous decision in Brent Taylor's favor by the US Supreme Court in 2008, the legal wrangling continued as the case was remanded back to the US District Court.
Then on Wed. January 19th a summary judgment was made in favor of Brent Taylor bringing the matter to an end (we hope).
Judge Urbina decision holds that;
- Once manufacturer authorized disclosure of its materials, they were no longer secret for purposes of FOIA's trade secrets exemption;
- Secret status of the materials was not restored when manufacturer revoked its authorization to disclosure; and
- The materials were not commercially valuable, and, thus, did not fall within FOIA's trade secrets exemption.
This decision should help pave the way for easier access (via FOIA) to the approved data/drawings that owners/restorers of antique/classic aircraft need to help in complying with the FAR's in the restoration and maintaining airworthiness of said aircraft.
It's been a long and expensive road but if it helps to "Keep the Antiques Flying", then it will have been well worth it.