Heat Turned Up For Pilot Database


Some congressional heavyweights are leaning on the Department of Transportation to finalize a Pilots Records Database they say would provide “one level of safety” for airline passengers. The database was included as part of the contentious 2010 FAA reauthorization bill and mandatory reporting requirements by those employing pilots has yet to be formalized as a rule. The FAA is now moving forward with it with an NPRM that was issued March 30 but there has been opposition to its reach and scope.

In a letter signed by members of the Western New York Congressional delegation, which includes Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and former Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the delegation said details of the crash of an Atlas Air Boeing 767 in February of 2019 cemented their resolve to get the rule in place. The politicians say the database would have prevented the first officer who was flying the plane from concealing his history of blown checkrides and other training failures while gaining 5,000 hours of right seat experience. “August 1st marks ten years since the passage of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 …the latest news about the deadly Atlas Air cargo flight crash shows we cannot wait one more day to implement the Pilot Records Database,” the letter reads.

NBAA has been among those pushing back on the master list of pilot credentials saying including small corporate flight departments in the collection of those required to submit pilot records is too much burden for them. It also says the NPRM had some contradictory language in it. Comments on the NPRM closed June 30.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Beyond possibly covering up for pilots that shouldn’t necessarily be protected, I don’t understand the issue. In the military, my 20 years of flight records were there for every Ops Off and Cmdr to read, if they wanted.
    I commented at length on the GTI crash in Houston about weak F/Os. Assuming that they aren’t too old, I am pretty sure that a couple of them are still filing right seats there. At least there, they were a known quantity and were watched closely. Of course, with the big hiring boom of the past 10 years, they might have moved to the “major’s”. The problem with that is that their records wouldn’t have gone with them. IF they moved, they did so to a passenger airline. Great. And a whole new set of Captains will have to try to keep them in line. They could not upgrade at GTI and at least one signed an agreement that (no pronoun used) would not attempt to upgrade again, ever. That also would not ever get transmitted to a new employer.
    Long since past time to cut the c**p with the protect the “sky gods” at all cost. Peoples lives are at stake every time an aluminum tube full of people gets air put under it. Those people deserve to have the reasonably best available sitting up front. They are not paying to be squired around by the weakest link out there. The GTI crash will never make a dent in the public conscience because no one cares about boxes or the three pilots that died in that bayou. But, this crash isn’t a lot different that the Colgan crash in Buffalo. Those two flew a perfectly good airplane into the backyard of a house. Both had issues with their training and, in my lowly view, had no business being paired together. That is irrelevant though because they and the people that entrusted them with their lives are long dead.
    If your flight department is too lazy or cheap to handle the records requirements, then maybe it should be closed and the brass can call NetJets or someone when they need a ride. Pilots that are dead set against this idea… what are you trying to hide?

  2. I don’t know about pilots who are “Dead Set against the idea of pilot data” but if Chuck Schumer is deeply embroiled in anything involving personal data,you can bet there is a snake in there somewhere. The devil is always in the details,the ones you read about after the fact.

    • Tom C,
      You used an illogical argument referred to as an ad hominem argument. Look it up if you don’t understand what that means. AvWeb would do well to edit these kind of replies.

      “Ad hominem fallacies are considered to be uncivil and do not help creating a constructive atmosphere for dialogue to flourish.”
      Wikipedia quote on the ad hominem argument.

      • Not all ad hominem remarks are created equally. It has become the norm to discuss pending legislation without looking at the details because the bills have all become ridiculously long and worded in ways that cause them to have meanings and consequences different from what appears in the text.

        Attacking a bill based on its supporters is no longer any different than attacking an automobile based on the company that manufactures it.

        I’d say he isn’t being illogical at all, and by the standards of the day not that uncivil. The Senator isn’t a part of the discussion, and is a politician responsible for the quality of his work.

        I’m no fan of ad hominem, but this isn’t a case where I would dismiss a comment simply for ad hominem either. Is that reasonable?

  3. When are our IT people going to be able to back track who the actual virus source is right down to the person and location. I am sure there are people that could be hired to take care of them once they are located.

  4. No pro here, but I can tell you that government records get used daily as methods of attack over personal and political differences. There are books from decades of issues the military has had just as results of their record systems and how certain types of people get unfairly punished leaving large organizations without the particular types they need to grow and change.

    So today it’s a list of failed check rides, and what next? Some subjective commentary from someone in the company gets added? Great, now Bob owns Al’s future. Sorry, Al. Or, you company fails to put in accurate information or any at all and you can’t get an interview to get a new job.

    Just saying, it’s not a no brainer decision whether to have the database and certainly not what should be included.

    At the same time, it seems generally agreed that firing the incompetent is harder than it ought to be. We also are all aware how silly a lot of the test questions and standards are.

    Maybe the quick and easy database patch isn’t the answer? Maybe the hard work of deconstructing layers and layers of bad patches from decades of quick fixes would be better? Isn’t it over due?

  5. David C – This is not about sharing records or privacy, this is about attempting to implement a solution to a non-problem. It is the operators responsibility to determine whether a pilot is fit and capable for the duty they are assigned. I personally failed my CFI checkride, but would put my award winning flying and safety abilities against anyone. Tests and checkrides do not necessarily reflect a persons ability to do the job. This does not only impact corporate flight departments – take my Part 135 operation. To comply with this undunded mandate would cost us over $350 per employee per month (because of stage checks, upgrades, medicals, etc.) multipliied by 114. Who will help us offset this cost against already slim margins? And for what – we are accident free and have the capability of determining fitness for duty. It is a poorly constructed bill that seeks a solution to a problem that is already covered under civil tort. We should not be legislating an issue that does not exist.

    As for Colgan Air – you are mistaken that it was a “perfectly good airplane”. It was collecting ice to the point where it effected aerodynamics. A point on the ATR and Dash 8 that has led to them not being used except where icing is impossible. When was the last Dash 8 you were on?

  6. Someone will have to explain to me how a pilot candidate can “hide” check ride failures? Doesn’t the FAA keep pass or fail checkride records? What happened to PRIA records checks that I as a pilot had to sign a release for to get hired? The FAA standard is either that candidate meets the standard on a check ride or does not, there is no in between. Passing on comments from one company to another is open to abuse. And those comments can be used against the company making them in civil court. And how do you handle records from a company that goes out of business/bankrupt? Without some kind of system to allow for resolution of disputed info, this could ruin a career for no reason at all. Just like the worthless drug testing requirements, who is going to pay for the additional costs involved? As Tom W said, anything Chuck Schumer is engaged in has to be questionable.

  7. As a private pilot I my concerns with this are that it doesn’t pose an undue burden (meaning that log submissions can be built into 3rd party apps like ForeFlight or MyFlightbook), that the database is actually run by the government and not outsourced to Locheed Martin, and that privacy and access are properly thought out so that only parties that have a need to know can go access my logbook. While not unreasonable, this is a lot to ask for a piece of government legislation…

  8. Safety? I still remember the Federal database that put guns drawn onto John and Martha King. I still remember the legal 9/11 terrorists that killed thousands of Americans. This is NOT about safety. Period.