Final step in Flight 3407 safety reforms to be implemented soon
Congressman Brian Higgins on Friday the Federal Aviation Administration took “long-awaited” action toward implementation of a pilot records database, a safety measure recommended following the crash of Colgan Flight 3407 on Feb. 12, 2009.
The pilot records database was required in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill of 2010 approved by Congress and has been in a beta test phase since December 2017.
Higgins, who has repeatedly joined the Flight 3407 families in pushing for the database and other reforms, said, “Some fights don’t come easy. For years, we have stood alongside Flight 3407 families pushing for improved flight safety and fighting against threats to roll back the progress made. At long last, this brings us to the last measure recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) following the crash, yet to be implemented. We look forward to having the pilot record database in place, delivering greater transparency, accountability and ultimately safer skies for the flying public.”
A notice of proposed rulemaking was placed in the federal register effective March 30, and will allow for a 90-day public comment period on rules associated with a pilot records database.
- Overview of the Proposal
“The FAA’s authority to issue rules on aviation safety is found in Title 49 of the United States Code (49 U.S.C.). This rulemaking is promulgated under the general authority described in 49 U.S.C. 106(f), which establishes the authority of the Administrator to promulgate regulations and rules, and the specific authority provided by § 203 of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 (“the PRD Act”), codified at 49 U.S.C. 44703(h)-(j). The PRD Act identifies several rulemaking requirements.
The PRD Act requires the Administrator to promulgate regulations to establish an electronic pilot records database containing records from the FAA and records maintained by air carriers and other operators that employ pilots. …The PRD Act also requires air carriers to access the database and evaluate any relevant records maintained therein pertaining to an individual before allowing that individual to begin service as a pilot.
The FAA is further required to issue regulations to protect and secure the personal privacy of any individual whose records are accessed in the new electronic database; to protect and secure the confidentiality of those records; and, to prevent further dissemination of those records once accessed by an air carrier. The PRD Act also requires the implementing regulations to prescribe a timetable for the implementation of the PRD as well as a schedule for sunsetting the Pilot Records Improvement Act of 1996.”
In slightly over 30,000 words and following the very specific mandates of the 2010 PRD Act, the FAA navigated the privacy statutes of 50 states and political landmines inherent in a database containing the most thorough records of every airman and of “’other persons’ that employ pilots that would likely be air carrier pilots or prospective air carrier pilots at some later date.”
Before reviewing some of the salient policy decisions, it is important to touch on the issue for which the most complaints were registered- the time to get out the NPRM.
In the section of the Federal Register pages required by a variety of regulatory reviews, the FAA mentions the following:
“…the FAA has incurred costs to develop the PRD since 2010. From 2010 through 2020, the FAA estimates the present value PRD development costs are about $14.1 million …
In advance of this rulemaking, the FAA determined it prudent to move its PRIA records to an electronic pilot record database, also called the PRD.
In September 2015, the FAA initiated a phased approach to establish the PRD. …
The phased approach was developed to provide direct, uninterrupted access to FAA pilot records to air carriers and operators required to comply with PRIA…”
The point of these comments was not to reply to the complaints about timeliness, but in responding to primarily OMB rules.
The Pilot Records Database (PRD) is used to facilitate the sharing of pilot records among air carriers in a clearinghouse managed by the Federal Aviation Administration. All part 119 certificate holders and fractional ownerships can register to access the PRD and evaluate the available FAA data for each individual pilot candidate prior to making a hiring decision.
Pilots holding an FAA Commercial or Airline Transport Pilot certificate with a current medical can now register in PRD and see their FAA records. Air carriers that chose to use PRD now as part of the hiring process may require pilots to use PRD to grant consent for them to see the pilot’s FAA records as part of the hiring process.
What Records are currently provided?
Currently, the PRD is designed to comply with portions of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 and the Pilot Records Improvement Act of 1996 (the Acts). The PRD provides the following FAA records:
- Name and current address
- Airman Certificate Information
- Medical Certificate class, limitations, and date of issuance (if applicable)
- Enforcement History (if applicable)
- Accident / Incident History (if applicable)
- Previous aviation employers (if entered by the airman into the PRD)
- Date of last NDR request (if entered by the airman into the PRD)
- Additional records may be available after rulemaking is completed
In recognition of the complexity and likely confusion to be caused by the Act and the new 14 CFR Part 111, an unusual, 24 hours a day helpline was created:
- The Help Desk is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you have a PRD support-related question not found in our Frequently Asked Questions (PDF), contact the National Service Desk at:
Phone: 1-844-FAA-MYIT (322-6948)
The FAA prepared a three column table designed to Current PRIA Requirements, the PRD Act, and Proposed Requirements for the PRD. Below is the PRD column with the added requirements bolded:
Part 119 certificate holders, air tour operators, fractional ownership programs, corporate flight departments, and governmental entities conducting public aircraft operations.
[FAA RATIONALE: “The FAA is proposing in subpart C of part 111 to require all part 119 certificate holders, 91K fractional ownership programs, persons authorized to conduct air tour operations in accordance with § 91.147, persons operating a corporate flight department, covered governmental entities conducting public aircraft operations and employing pilots, and trustees in bankruptcy to enter relevant data on individuals employed as pilots into the PRD. As of May 30, 2018, there were an estimated 5,006 air carriers and operators employing pilots that would be required to report pilot records to the database.”]
Current airman certificates with associated type ratings and limitations; current airman medical certificate, including any limitations; any failed attempt of an individual to pass a practical test required to obtain a certificate or type rating under 14 CFR part 61; and summaries of FAA legal enforcement actions resulting in a finding by the Administrator of a violation that was not subsequently overturned; accident and incident information.
Air Carrier and Operator Records
Records proposed to be reported to the FAA in accordance with § 111.215 (drug and alcohol testing records); § 111.220 (training, qualification, and proficiency records); § 111.225 (disciplinary action records); § 111.230 (separation from employment records); § 111.240 (verification of motor vehicle driving record search and evaluation); and § 111.265 (historical record reporting).
[The new Part 111 is in lieu of P120 and P121 records]
Fee per record accessed by an air carrier or operator.
[As opposed to FAA or “industry” fees]
Timeframe of Records Documented
(1.) Part 121 and 135 air carrier records dating back to August 1, 2005, through the life of the pilot or 99 years, whichever is less; (2.) Part 125 and 135 operator as well as 91K fractional ownership records dating back to August 1, 2010 through the life of the pilot or 99 years, whichever is less; and, (3.) FAA records dating back to August 1, 2010, through the life of the pilot.
Timeline for Records to be Reported to a Hiring Air Carrier or Operator
Reported to the PRD within 30 days of the reportable event and available for review immediately.
(1.) One year after the publication of the final rule—report present and future records; access and evaluate records in the PRD, subject to a user fee. (2.) Two years after the publication of the final rule—report historical records. (3.) Two years and 90 days after the publication of the final rule—sunset of PRIA.
Other sections of note—see the expunction and UAS pilot discussions:
Overview of Affected Entities
- Part 121 Air Carriers
- Part 135 Air Carriers And Operators
- Part 125 Operators
- Part 91, Subpart K Fractional Ownership Programs
- Section 91.147 Air Tour Operators
- Corporate Flight Departments
- Governmental Entities Conducting Public Aircraft Operations
- Trustees in Bankruptcy
[the trustees of bankrupt affected entities are required to maintain and provide records.]
. Entities That Will Not Be Required To Report Information
As previously explained, the FAA interprets the PRD Act requires the following employers of pilots to report information about those pilots: Part 119 certificate holders, 91K fractional ownership programs, persons authorized to conduct air tour operations in accordance with § 91.147, persons operating a corporate flight department, covered governmental entities conducting public aircraft operations and employing pilots, and trustees in bankruptcy. The FAA does not interpret the PRD Act to require the following entities to report information to the PRD:
Part 91: Aerial Advertising (Banner Towing), Aerial Photography Operators, Airshow Performers and Acrobatic Teams, Business Aviation Operators (other than operators of a fleet of airplanes that require a type rating under 14 CFR 61.31(a)), Glider Operations, Pipeline Patrol, Commercial Hot Air Balloon Operators; and charitable sightseers under 14 CFR 91.147(k)
Enforcement Information System
Consistent with the PRD Act and the FAA’s implementation of PRIA, the FAA is proposing to include information on an individual’s closed enforcement actions. The enforcement action information would be uploaded to the PRD at regularly scheduled intervals via an interface with the FAA’s internal Enforcement Information System (EIS). The EIS contains information about individuals, investigations, legal counsel information, and FAA surveillance activity, all related to enforcement. The EIS receives all enforcement and compliance data directly from FAA Aviation Safety Inspectors and FAA legal counsel
Expunction of Legal Enforcement Actions and Airman Records
As FAA records are part of the “records entered into the [PRD] pertaining to an individual,” the FAA interpreted the PRD to require that a pilot’s records could not be expunged until the FAA has received notice of an individual’s death
Accident/Incident Data System
The FAA proposes to include information from the Accident/Incident Data System (AIDS) to air carriers through the PRD.
4. Drug and Alcohol Records To Be Entered by the FAA
a. Pre-Employment Testing Records
The FAA proposes to submit to the PRD those records of pre-employment drug or alcohol violations and refusals to submit to testing that are required to be submitted to the FAA by air carriers and other employers or their MRO. The inclusion of these records is significant because a violation of this type would render the individual unqualified to perform as a pilot. As a result, these records are directly relevant to an air carrier’s hiring decision.
Part 107 Remote Pilot in Command Certificates
The PRD Act requires all air carriers to request and review records prior to allowing an individual to begin service as a pilot. The PRD Act applies to air carrier pilots irrespective of the type of aircraft they operate. As a result, the Act’s requirements apply to pilots of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) when those UAS are used in air carrier operations.
FAA Records To Be Reported to the Pilot Records Database
Comprehensive Airmen Information System
The Comprehensive Airman Information System (CAIS) contains key information derived from airman certificate applications, temporary airman certificates, notices of disapprovals, disapproved applications, enforcement actions, correspondence, requests for replacement certificates, letters of verification of authenticity, and other information that supports the issuance of airman certificates. To ensure that the PRD contains the most accurate FAA certificate information on pilots, CAIS certificate data would be provided to the PRD on a nightly basis. Providing CAIS data directly responds to the PRD Act mandate to include this information in the PRD.
The 90 day comment period surely will draw significant criticisms from those who will assert that Part 111 is not enough and equally from others arguing that the rules were too expansive.
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