The FAA lost 119,000 planes and all we got was this lousy form

Summary:For years the FAA's database more closely approximated a brown supermarket bag filled with receipts than an actual, you know, database.

Sometimes, it's tough to decide who to mock.

For example, do we mock the FAA for the decades of horrible record keeping practices its used for tracking private aircraft, or do we mock the FAA for now having a situation where it's effectively lost 119,000 aircraft?

Either way, we're going to mock the FAA. It's just a question of whether its current workers are more mockworthy, or all those who came before them.

Yes, your tax dollars are at work.

Here's the basic story. All airplanes that fly in the United States are supposed to be registered with the FAA. Think about how your car is registered with the DMV, and you get the idea.

Each plane has a tail number (beginning with 'N' in the U.S.) and this number is the plane's official number, used to tie it to the database that the FAA maintains for all planes.

Except, apparently, for years the FAA's database more closely approximated a brown supermarket bag filled with receipts than an actual, you know, database.

Planes were registered once, when purchased. FAA rules required aircraft owner to update registration once every three years, but there were no penalties for not doing so. As a result, information on hundreds of thousands of aircraft hasn't been updated since the original sale.

Let's recap before we mock: the FAA requires aircraft registration, but many smaller aircraft haven't updated their registration information evar and no one's forced them to do so.

What does that leave us with? Well, a whole lot of unaccounted-for planes. A whole lot of planes that can't be traced to their proper owners. A whole lot of planes that could be used for smuggling or even terrorist activity because air traffic and the FAA can't really tell who owns what.

It'd be funny if it weren't so disturbing.

Now, I'm a big believer in giving credit where credit is due, and our current FAA does deserve some credit. They've decided to take the difficult PR hit and admit this is a problem and start to fix it.

They're requiring all planes to be re-registered, beginning next year, so, presumably, a few years from now, the FAA will have a much more comprehensive database of what's actually in the air and who owns what.

So there's that.

You'd think, though, that increasing the security of our skies would be a good idea and everyone would support the FAA's new-found sense of responsibility. You'd think that, wouldn't ya? You would. I would.

But guess who's all pissy about the extra work of registering the planes?

That's right. The banks.

Our old friends, the banks. These guys are all crying and whining because they have to now match purchase and lease data with actual aircraft, many of which haven't been accounted for since The Bay of Pigs invasion.

Sweet. The government actually comes up with a best practice for insuring better national security after years of negligence and who's fighting it?

The banks.

Didn't we just bail those suckers out with government (read: taxpayer) money? Maybe they should be more willing to do their actual jobs and quit whining about the same government that bailed their butts out.

Gotta love them banks.

Topics: Travel Tech, Banking, Government

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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