Tracking a pilot’s flight history has been difficult
New Pilot Record Database improves hiring search
PRD adds paperwork to air carriers and corporate flight departments
Safety Risk assessment justifies the added burden
The best test for hiring a pilot is a thorough history of his/her flying. Not a single flight with an evaluator, but a carefully curated record of years spent in the cockpit. For a variety of good and not so strong reasons, proposals to create a more thorough picture did not move quickly or with the degree of detail needed to assess the skills of a candidate.
The Congress enacted and then on July 29, 2010, the President signed the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 including §203. Soon thereafter the FAA chartered its Pilot Records Database Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). The subsequent process was at best convoluted, unbearably slooow, reviewed under a variety of issues (privacy , federalism, energy consumption, cost/benefit, impact on small businesses), subject to a number of Executive Branch internal assessments plus frequent reminders from Congress that the PRD must be issued soon. Suffice it to say, the PRD Final Rule was finally issued on May 26,2021.
As described in the FA press release, the Final Rule:
“The database will include the following information:
- FAA pilot certificate information, such as certificates and ratings;
- FAA summaries of unsatisfactory pilot applications for new certificates or ratings;
- FAA records of accidents, incidents, and enforcement actions;
- Records from employers on pilot training, qualification, and proficiency;
- Pilot drug and alcohol records;
- Employers’ final disciplinary action records;
- Pilot records concerning separation of employment; and
- Verification of pilot motor vehicle driving record.
The final rule (PDF) takes effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. Additional actions and timelines to support implementation of the rule include:
- Six months after the rule is published, operators must begin reviewing FAA records electronically in the database instead of submitting a form requesting records;
- One year after the rule is published, operators will begin to report and review records to the database; and
- Operators will have three years and 90 days to transition and fully comply with the rule.”
The FAA’s analysis also examined the costs to be imposed upon the operators and, after some amendments, adjusted some of the weight of and filing time for the record-keeping.
Aviation around the globe is increasingly relying on data to minimize safety risks. It is almost axiomatic that more information about the individual pilots will enhance the competence of the professionals in the cockpit that will be hired. Even in light of this trend, there was some opposition to the PRD based on (Final Rule, pages 25-28; 29-34 ):
“Commenters were also concerned about the user fee, particularly as it applied to small operators, and noted that they anticipated higher costs for recordkeeping than the estimated costs presented by the FAA. Commenters also requested a longer compliance period to transition from PRIA to PRD. Commenters expressed concern about pilots’ privacy and objected to the inclusion of check pilot comments in the PRD. Commenters further objected to the inclusion of historical records and the method for record reporting.”
It is important to note that this highly contentious rule-making was well received by industry. The safety benefits, quantified in the document in the May 20 Federal Register Notice, pp.14-16,170-175 and in each specific cost objection throughout the 230 pages), appear to have convinced the affected parties not to oppose. The unions, historically an ardent critic of any invasion of privacy, have made no negative comments. A4A, RAA (actually “applauds”), NBAA, NATA, AOPA and other operators, all usually adverse to record keeping costs, have been virtually silent. Perhaps some recognized that Voltaire’s aphorism (“perfect is the enemy of the good”) applied to the PRD.”
by Kerry Lynch
– May 26, 2021, 11:51 AM
The FAA released its final electronic Pilot Records Database (PRD) rule today, scaling back some of the reporting requirements but—despite an outpouring of opposition—maintaining corporate flight departments in the applicability.
Released a little more than a year after first proposed, the final rule requires air carriers, public operators, air tour operators, fractional ownerships, and corporate flight departments to enter “relevant” data on pilot employees into the PRD and calls on air carriers and certain other entities, including fractional and air tour operators, to access pilot records for hiring candidates. The rule provides a year for operators to load current pilot records into the database, two years for historical records dating back to 2015, and three years for all historical records. Meanwhile, affected hiring operators must begin reviewing records within six months. Records must remain in the database until the time of a pilot’s death or they reach 99 years of age.
In recognition of NBAA’s concerns regarding the establishment of a definition of “corporate flight department,” the rule eliminated such a formal provision. But the rule essentially still does imply a definition in a footnote that states, “The FAA uses the term corporate flight departments to reference operators of two or more aircraft conducting operations in furtherance of or incidental to a business, solely pursuant to the general operating and flight rules in Part 91 or operating aircraft pursuant to a Letter of Deviation Authority issued under § 125.3.” In addition, the rulemaking also includes those parameters in the applicability section and added rotorcraft.
In the rulemaking, the agency acknowledged the hundreds of comments, including from most of the business and general aviation organizations, asking that corporate operators be excluded. In addition, others sought exclusion for public aircraft operations (primarily government). Organizations expressed concerns about the undue burden such requirements would pose and suggested they offer limited value since the career path for corporate pilots doesn’t traditionally lead to airlines. Others were concerned about privacy and the expansive scope of the records requirement
“Upon consideration, the FAA determined that in light of the information and data provided by commenters, some requirements of the proposed rule were overly burdensome for certain types of operators,” the agency said, adding, “This rule reduces the reporting burden for certain operators conducting operations without a part 119 certificate, in that they are not required to report specific types of records unless and until requested. Such operators include public aircraft operations, air tour operations, and corporate flight departments.”
Specifically, corporate flight departments, air tour operators, and public operators will not be required to upload training, disciplinary, and separation from employment records to the PRD unless and until requested by a hiring operator. But certain termination and disciplinary action records must be reported, the agency added.
“The FAA determined the most effective way to ensure review of a pilot’s records by a potential employer while reducing extraneous records loaded by the [affected operators] is to require that group to enter only records that may be of particular concern to a hiring employer.”
This marks a scaling back from the original proposal, which sought details such as training and check-ride notes.
However, the FAA disagreed with the contention that these operators should be exempt, saying such a move “would not serve the FAA’s safety mission; overall, this final rule requires an appropriate level of engagement from certain Part 91 operators.” The agency further highlighted the fact that single-aircraft operations are not included.
As for the contention that such requirements would be of little benefit to corporate operations, the FAA said that the rule isn’t designed for the benefit of one operator type over another but for overall safety. “This rule responds to a statutory requirement…As a result of this rule, operators will be better prepared to make informed hiring decisions to support aviation safety.”
The agency did adjust its cost analysis, conceding that in the proposal it “erroneously assumed that corporate flight departments maintain all records in electronic databases and assumed that all records would transfer to the PRD in the first year.” It adjusted the analysis to account for costs for operators to enter records manually.
However, the FAA disagreed with the contention that it ignored the increased cost to Part 91 operators. The agency estimated a “net cost” to the industry as a whole of $67 million over 10 years.
We join the Administrator in expressing condolences to the families.
 “Over a 10-year period of analysis (2021-2030), this rule results in present value net costs (costs less savings) to industry and the FAA of about $67.0 million or $9.5 million annualized using a seven percent discount rate. Using a three percent discount rate, this rule results in present value net costs of about $71.0 million or about $8.3 million annualized.”
 Based on this high level of support, the PRD ought to be extended to other safety sensitive aviation employees (https://jdasolutions.aero/blog/safety-sensitive-employees-added-colgan-3407-families-pilot-record-database/).
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