Bulgarian Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for keeping the aircraft register of Bulgaria i.e. records of all aircraft registrations, aircraft ownership rights, dry or wet lease contracts records. Bulgarian aircraft register is not very big, but has a potential to grow as Bulgaria is part of the EU and any registered aircraft in Bulgaria will benefit the Single European Sky.
Bulgarian Aircraft register regulation
The aircraft register is regulated by the Chicago Convention, Annex 7, the Bulgarian Civil Aviation Act and the ordinance about the rules for keeping the register. As the local aviation sector is not huge, there is no case law or legal acts, concerning the status of the register and access procedures for third parties. Milen Hristov of MH Legal applied for information on certain aircraft registrations at the Bulgarian CAA. However, the Director of CAA rejected the request, grounding his decision on the basis that the register was "non-public, it contained private business matters" and the records were "personal data". The justification of CAA's decision was illegal and was based on misinterpretation of the Access To Public Information Act.
Administrative Court rules about the access to the Aircraft Register
We have filed a complaint (judicial review) in Sofia Administrative Court and after 8 months of legal proceedings the court came up with the decision to turn down CAA's decision. The judge has ordered the Director of CAA to grant MH Legal access to the requested information.
The judge has accepted in full our legal arguments, derived from the scarce Bulgarian legislation on keeping the Aircraft Register. CAA's argument that the information is "personal data" was not accepted as valid, because only data of physical persons could be personal data. As you can imagine, most of the records for aircraft ownership are about companies and not physical persons.
Second argument about "concerning private business relations" is also not valid, as the this is contrary to the purpose of the law and the regulations in Access To Public Information Act i.e. data, processed or created by any government or municipal authority, unless classified, should be accessed upon request by citizens or organisations. Moreover, the fact that changes in aircraft ownership rights are binding to third parties only if duly recorded in the Aircraft Register, is a legal argument about the status of that register i.e. public (Article 23 para 2 of the Civil Aviation Act).
As a result of our pro bono legal actions, Bulgarian Aircraft REgister is now open. It's still hidden within CAA's website and only in Bulgarian language, however, we've got regularly updated English translation of the Bulgarian Aircraft Register on our website.