Point of Law: New Pilot Records Database
The new Pilots Records Database (PRD) contains employer and FAA records on an individual’s performance as a pilot for the life of the individual. Pilot records are maintained in the PRD until the pilot reaches 99 years of age or if the FAA receives a certified copy of a death certificate.
How did we get here? This is another chapter in the legal legacy of Colgan Flight 3407. Flight 3407 stalled and crashed on approach near Buffalo on Feb. 12, 2009. The captain of flight 3407 had failed several checkrides. The crash killed 50 people and led to changes to Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) requirements, training requirements and now the creation of the PRD. The PRD will gradually replace the Pilot Records Improvement Act (PRIA). Congress enacted PRIA because, from 1987-94, there were 7 fatal commercial airline accidents that were attributed, in part, to errors made by pilots who had been hired without background safety checks being completed. Later reviews of these pilots’ records revealed prior safety violations or training problems which followed them to subsequent air carrier employment without the new air carrier being aware of these violations or problems.
According to the FAA, the PRD modernizes pilot record-sharing as it occurs currently under PRIA. The PRD will serve as a repository for pilot records and will contain records from a pilot’s current and former employers, as well as the FAA. The FAA envisions that the PRD not only will be an indicator of pilots’ abilities or deficiencies, but also that it will “prompt conversations between applicants and hiring employers.” PRD is intended to help ensure that no records about a pilot’s performance with previous employers that could influence a future employer’s decision go unidentified.
Who will use the PRD? There are two groups: 1) companies that must check the PRD before hiring (“reviewing entities”) and 2) companies that must provide records to the PRD even though they are not required to review PRD records before hiring a pilot (“reporting entities”).
Reviewing entities include all Part 121, 125 and 135 operators, fractional ownership programs under Part 91 Subpart K, and air tour operators with a letter of authorization under § 91.147.
Reporting entities include all reviewing entities, as well as corporate flight departments and public aircraft operations (PAO). Corporate flight departments are those that operate standard airworthiness airplanes that require a type certificate and/or turbine-powered rotorcraft.
Will the records be private? Employers cannot search the PRD indiscriminately, as an operator that wishes to view records can see a pilot’s record only if that pilot has granted consent to that hiring employer. Pilot consent is time-limited and the duration is specified by the pilot. The FAA anticipates the PRD will improve pilot privacy because only specific data elements are required to be submitted, in contrast to current practice under PRIA, in which pilot records are exchanged in their entirety. The PRD will indicate what records exist about a pilot; the operator is responsible for determining if it is necessary to obtain further information prior to permitting an individual to begin service as a pilot.
The FAA will deny database access to any person for failure to comply with any of the duties and responsibilities prescribed under new Part 111, or as necessary to preserve the security and integrity of the database. No person may use the database for any purpose except as expressly authorized under Part 111 and no person may share, distribute, publish, or otherwise release any record accessed in the database to any person or individual not directly involved in the hiring decision, unless specifically authorized by law, or unless the person sharing the record is the subject of the record.
What about “false” records? If a reporting entity discovers or is informed that previously reported records contain inaccurate information, that entity must correct the record within 10 days of knowledge that the record contains an error. When the reporting entity does not agree that the record contains an error, it must notify the pilot that the dispute will be resolved in accordance with the reporting entity’s dispute resolution procedures. Each reporting entity must have a documented process for investigating and resolving record disputes in a reasonable amount of time. Once resolved, final disposition of the dispute must be documented in the PRD.
When do employers provide records? Air carriers will be reporting routinely, but certain records are not subject to required contemporaneous reporting. Each operator conducting PAO; air tour operations; and corporate flight departments are not required to report training qualification and proficiency records, certain final disciplinary action records, or certain records concerning separation of employment, unless and until they receive a request from a reviewing entity. If, however, the record memorializes a disciplinary action resulting in permanent or temporary removal of the pilot from aircraft operations or separation from employment resulting in termination, the record must be reported to the PRD contemporaneously. These operators must retain all records eligible for reporting upon request. If records are not available at the time of the request from the reviewing entity, these reporting entities must provide written confirmation to the FAA that no records are available.
Air carriers must begin using the PRD for FAA record evaluations no later than Dec. 7, 2021, and for all other records no later than June 10, 2022. Air carriers must upload historical records starting on June 12, 2023 and no later than Sept. 9, 2024, with the compliance date dependent on the age of the individual historical record. Until Sept. 9, 2024, it may be necessary to obtain and review pre-hire records using both PRIA and PRD processes. For those pilots and companies subject to the new PRD requirements, Advisory Circular AC 120-68J provides 136 pages of detailed guidance and is available by clicking here.
PRD directly to review that pilot’s records, the pilot may request their records
be provided by submitting FAA Form 8060-14, Pilot Consent/Revocation for
Air Carrier Access to Pilot Records Database, in accordance with
§ 111.315(c). The PAR will be mailed to the pilot’s address on file. PARs will
only be provided for pilots who are eligible to participate in the PRD. See
paragraph 18.104.22.168 for eligibility requirements.