There have been several changes in the way that airlines conduct their operations since the Department's data reporting requirements were established after deregulation, including tremendous growth in code sharing both domestically and in international markets. The Office of Aviation Analysis has taken a leadership role in initiating a process that would:
- Harmonize the Department's aviation data systems with current regulatory and statutory needs;
- Improve the quality of the Department's aviation databases;
- Provide improved submission of and access to the data, and
- Lower the cost and compliance burden of reporting carriers.
In 2005, the Department issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking titled "Aviation Data Modernization," which proposed various changes to the existing data requirements codified in Parts 241 and 249 of the Code of Federal Regulations. In response, most commenters agreed that major changes were needed to improve the accuracy and reliability of the data, but a number of carriers expressed concern that the Department’s proposed solution was too costly, too burdensome, and potentially revealed confidential competitive data.
In response, the Department engaged a contractor to consider and propose an alternative system, and withdrew the NPRM to facilitate more open discussions with the public. After study, the contractor has proposed using existing airline message protocols and message formats and structures as the basis for an improved system, which would lower costs and provide more accurate data. A prototype of that system has been developed, with the next step being validation of the prototype through use of actual message data generated by selected airlines.