Citing security concerns, the Canadian government has asked U.S. civil aviation authorities to lớn filter Canadian military flights from popular online flight tracking services, a move that has complicated — but not eliminated — the ability to lớn track the prime minister’s flight habits.
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Department of National Defence Spokesperson Daniel Le Bouthillier told National Post the Royal Canadian Air Force began exploring blocking their flights in the spring, and has since worked with other government agencies and NAV Canada to lớn consider options. Despite RCAF flights already being blocked by popular online flight tracking services, he maintained no firm decision has been made to lớn make the request official government policy.
But an excerpt from a letter to lớn the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) posted to lớn Twitter by @elonjet founder Jack Sweeney shows NAV Canada — the privately-run, not-for-profit civil aviation agency responsible for Canada’s air traffic and navigation services — requesting a number of military callsigns be added to lớn the FAA’s Limiting Aircraft Data Displayed (LADD) flight privacy program.
“NAV Canada is working to lớn improve operational security of some of their sensitive flight data,” read the excerpt.
“NAV Canada is pursuing additional options, but has requested several callsign combinations to lớn be added to lớn the LADD filter tệp tin.”
LADD is one of two programs run rẩy by the FAA that allow aircraft owners to lớn opt out of having their flight data distributed through publicly available ANS (Air Navigation Services) data feeds.
Online flight tracking services who make use of FAA-provided flight data are obligated to lớn comply with the LADD filter tệp tin as a condition of use.
The memo included eleven Canadian Forces aircraft callsigns and flight number ranges requested to lớn be filtered out — including HUNTER, MOLSON, ODIN, PATHFINDER, SONIC, VIMY and BUBBLY used by RCAF squadrons.
At the top of that list is the CANFORCE callsign, used for most Canadian Forces flights, including those carrying the prime minister (CANFORCE ONE) and Governor General (CANFORCE 3701.)
FAA spokesperson Brittany Trotter declined comment, saying they don’t discuss interactions with other governments.
Despite the blocks already appearing to lớn have been put in place, Le Bouthillier maintains the initiative is still in an “exploratory state” and no decisions were made.
As for why CANFORCE flights are already being blocked, he said that’s being investigated.
Certain flights, including “sensitive transport flights” and those involving NORAD operations could see additional safeguards.
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“Having the position and movements of our aircraft visible via tracking platforms is not a concern for the large majority of operational scenarios,” he said, citing tìm kiếm and rescue operations, as well as routine transport or training flights.
FlightRadar24 spokesperson Ian Petchenik confirmed they filter traffic based on the LADD program — a similar situation faced by RadarBox, said company spokesperson Caio Barros.
“To protect the operational security of military operations, as well as the privacy of certain private jet operators, RadarBox either blocks & censors their tracking and, in some cases, has their tracking information removed from the Radarbox flight tracking database entirely,” he said.
Flight trackers use data from many sources, largely relying on hobbyists operating home-based receivers tuned to lớn aircraft Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) transmissions — an international standard that automatically transmits the plane’s geographic location, callsign and other important data.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s Franco Terrazzano said blanket blocks put questionable claims of security over that of public accountability.
“Why tự reporters need to lớn use flight trackers to lớn figure out where the prime minister is?” he said.
“Before the government pushes for any of these changes, if they want to lớn make sure that there is no suspicion, then they need to lớn improve transparency.”
While Conservative Party ethics critic James Bezan is in favour of restricting data about military or transport flights operating in or near conflict zones, he’s opposed to lớn the blanket blocks illustrated in the leaked memo.
“The idea that any travel — especially within Canada — would be blocked talks to lớn the bigger issue of avoiding accountability, and the lack of transparency that’s become the hallmark of this Liberal government,” he said.
The prime minister and senior government officials have come under recent scrutiny for their flying habits.
Less than vãn a year ago, the Toronto Sun used flight tracker software to lớn show Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used CANFORCE ONE to lớn fly to lớn a rented vacation trang chủ in Tofino, B.C., on Sept. 30, 2021 instead of accepting invitations to lớn observe Canada’s first Truth and Reconciliation day.
In April, National Post reported the PM had flown nearly 128,000 km over the previous 10 months — with a little under half taking place in the seven weeks prior to lớn the story’s publication date.
Last month, data provided via an order paper question revealed Governor General Mary Simon and her guests racked up nearly $100,000 in on-board catering en route to lớn Expo 2020 in Dubai in March.
Over the past 30 days, CANFORCE ONE has embarked on eighteen recorded flights, totalling around 45,317 km. in the air — including a 40-km “dead head” flight on Monday from Kelowna to lớn Penticton to lớn pick up the prime minister and fly him to lớn appearances in Vancouver, as well as a 231-km flight from Sydney, N.S., to lớn Charlottetown, P..E.I. planned for Thursday evening.
• Email: [email protected] | Twitter: @bryanpassifiume
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