following several requests from other members for information on the faa's procedures reference tapes, and after reading some of the responses on
different threads, i thought i would post a thread which explains how to go about requesting those tapes.
first a little background. all air traffic facilities, regardless of whether they are military, dod, contract or faa, are required by federal law to
record all voice communications and radar data (in the case of radar recording, it is as equipment capabilites permit, but most facilities in the
continental united states now have that capability). also by federal law, it is a requirement that those tapes be held for 15 days, after which they
are erased and reused (the term "tapes" is becoming a misnomer, as the faa is rapidly transitioning to electronic recording...but in the cases of
facilities that are operating with computerized recording equipment, a majority of facilities in the US at this point, the procedures still remain the
same). there are several instances in which said tapes are required to be held indefinitely, some of those being accidents, incidents, and tapes
that are requested via foia procedures.
except for incidents involving national security (such as 9/11...and even those tapes are eventually released), tapes are accessable through a freedom
of information act request (foia). the procedures for a normal citizen requesting air traffic tapes are as follows:
remember, time is of the essence, as the tapes will be erased in 15 days.
first, call the facility in question and ask for information on how to contact the office responsible for foia requests. those offices are usually
located at the various regional headquarters, and the facilities will know who exactly to contact for that request, or you can find the representative
on the faa website here
. call the point of contact and make your request verbally. they may
then direct you to put it in writing. all of the information you need to put into your request is
. you can download the form that the processing official will use to process your foia request
. if you have trouble reading or downloading that
form, you can find it at faa.gov
. before you get off the phone with them, insure
that they are going to order
the tapes to be held pending your written request. if not, then insure that you get your request to them as quickly as possible as they must
by federal law, order said tapes to be held upon written notice. also find out how much it is going to cost you (yes, there is a fee for this
service...most of the fees are on the form i linked for you to download, but i would verify the cost with your point of contact in the foia
now, i can not stress the following enough:
keep records of the time, day, and person to whom you talked to. additionally, send your written request via BOTH certified return receipt mail
the certified mail with return receipt will insure that you have a traceable paper trail, along with the name of the person who signed for the
package. the faa is a federal agency, which means it is full
of red tape. the very first thing i learned upon joining the faa was to keep
copies of everything i received with my name on it, and every piece of paper that i signed....trust me, it has saved me from a huge headache more than
now, after having sent the request out, wait a day or two and call the facility you are requesting the tapes from to insure that the order was given
to retain the tapes....like i said, we're combating red tape here, and it pays to be persistent. keep calling your point of contact in the foia
office at least once a week until you receive the tapes. keep in mind that it may take weeks or even months to get your copy of the tapes, but as
long as you follow the steps i have outlined here, the tapes will be held and you will receive them.
and thats pretty much it. i hope this information helps you guys and gals with your quest to deny ignorance! any other questions, please feel free
to ask here, or u2u me.
edited to amend the procedures as i just noticed that they have changed recently.
[edit on 7-1-2007 by snafu7700]