Electronic flight plans checked

Concerned about the Federal Aviation Administration's progress toward the electronic filing of flight plans, House Government Reform Committee Chairman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) asked FAA Administrator Jane Garvey for an update.

In a July 30 letter to Garvey, Burton cited testimony from Office of Management and Budget Director Mitchell Daniels Jr. at a June hearing on the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, saying that a fully electronic filing option isn't available for most fliers. Pilots file flight plans more than 17 million times a year by paper or telephone.

Burton noted that the GPEA compliance plan the Transportation Department filed in October 2000 indicates that converting to an electronic filing system is "in progress" and that the estimated completion date is "unknown."

"This is precisely the type of high-volume paper transaction that should be a priority for conversion to electronic filing," Burton wrote. "Providing for the electronic filing of flight plans would streamline an overburdened information collection system, significantly reduce the paperwork burden on millions of pilots, and save both time and money for the government and the traveling public."

Burton asked the FAA to brief the committee on the progress the agency has made toward enabling electronic filing since October, its costs and its timetable.

In his testimony, Daniels said that some transactions cannot be transferred to an electronic format or should not be because it's not cost-effective to do so. However, he said, many programs have "limited excuses" and those include the FAA's flight plan filing process and the Internal Revenue Service's specialized tax form filing process.

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