FAA Establishes Pilot Records Database


The FAA has adopted a rule establishing an electronic Pilot Records Database and requiring air carriers and some other operators to report pilots’ employment history, training and qualifications to that database. Along with FAA pilot certificate information, summaries of unsatisfactory pilot applications for new certificates or ratings and records of accidents, incidents and enforcement actions, the database will include pilot drug and alcohol records, employers’ final disciplinary action records, records concerning separation of employment and verification of pilots’ motor vehicle driving records. The database will be maintained by the FAA.

“It has been a long journey for the families of Colgan Flight 3407, but their tireless advocacy and continued engagement with the FAA has made this database a reality,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “With it, employers will be able to quickly and thoroughly make informed hiring decisions to keep our skies safe.”

The final rule (PDF) will take effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. Operators will have three years and 90 days following the publication date to fully comply with the rule. The FAA is expected to publish an accompanying advisory circular that will “offer additional resources to support industry adoption and use of the database.”

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Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. OK, so now the various dossiers the government has had scattered around the warehouse where they keep the ark of the covenant are down to one nice computerized dossier that can be searched for violations, deceptions, republican tendencies etc. by those dilligent transferees from the IRS. Doesn’t that just give you a warm and fuzzy feeling?

  2. The problem is that this information can be used to make career-changing decisions about pilots with little or no basis in reality. For example, just because a pilot takes a particular medication could end someone’s career, but there is no good research in place proving a relationship between that particular medical condition or medication to decreased safety. The FAA has unfortunately proven that they are willing to use correlation research done by biased sources to come to unwarranted conclusions. If they are going to do this, they need to up their game on the research side.

  3. My first question would be, is there a mechanism to allow incorrect data to be either corrected or removed. If this is like any other government database, it will be replete with information that is incorrect, or simply placed in the wrong person’s file. And, if it is like any other government database, it will be almost impossible to correct. Once it is down in electronic ink, it is usually there forever.

  4. The law of “Unintended Consequences” will prevail.
    Every “bust” on a checkride will have disastrous consequences on a pilot’s career. Check Airmen will realize that though it was technically a “bust”–it wasn’t unsafe–and will be more inclined to give the applicant a pass–which will result in a lowering of pilot standards.

    Same for all of the rest of the requirements–pilot deviation records will dry up–pilot records will revert to the old business standby of “I have NOTHING to say about that individual”–rather than a frank discussion. Motor vehicle traffic violations may cause a pilot applicant to not be hired. Prospective pilots will think twice about subjecting themselves to these draconian measures and getting into the flying business.

    Those of us that have been in the ranks of commercial aviation for any length of time have become accustomed to the FAA actually believing they make a difference. Considering the number of FAA employees to the number of aircraft already–they don’t. I have a 60 year old collection of aviation magazines. The FAA has proposed numerous regulations–and increased both the number of FAA employees AND the ratio of FAA employees to the number of aircraft using the system. They haven’t made a difference.

    • “Prospective pilots will think twice about subjecting themselves to these draconian measures and getting into the flying business.”

      Spot on comment, especially when you include items not mentioned with this issue.

      • Outright silly. Prospective pilots will not be deterred, they would not be dissuaded by knowing there will be a record database. The desire to follow a career will override that handily.

        To all those who’s opinion it is that this database not needed: If you’ve never been part of a company where an incident or accident happened and the general comments afterwards are “well, we waited for that one”, then you may not be properly informed. I have been employed by regionals, 121 carriers and part 135 operators and unfortunately in each one of these operations we had fatal accidents that ALL involved pilots with questionable piloting skills and KNOWN training issues.

  5. @John Mc: the Final Rule document answers your question, with “Yes”.

    “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.” (p.12)

    “…pilots who identify errors or inaccuracies in their respective PRD records are responsible for reporting the errors to the PRD. Once the FAA receives a report from the pilot of an error or inaccuracy, the FAA will designate the record as “in dispute” in the PRD. The record will remain designated as such until the entity that reported the record either corrects the record or completes the dispute resolution process.” (p.13)

    See also section “11. Correction of reported information and dispute resolution – Section 111.250”, comments about correcting errors, pp. 141-148.

    Page numbers are from Pilot Records Database Final Rule, the PDF file linked to in the AvWeb article above. I am not going to restate the URL, for fear of distressing AvWeb’s moderation robots.

    • Jim, I see the comments, but I hope their resolution process works better than that of most government agencies. I have been in a “discussion” with the IRS over a tax issue that is pretty black and white. Unfortunately, it has taken the IRS over 18 months to “review” my lengthy documentation on the subject and they still have not reached a conclusion. Just because it is in print in the Final Rule, doesn’t mean that it will happen in the real world as described.

  6. You can have all the databases you want, they do little good if companies don’t use the information. As far as I know there is no requirement for hiring companies to hire or reject candidates based on the information in these databases. It is all about open records. Something PRIA was supposed to do. We all know there are outfits in all facets of flying whether pt 121, pt 135, or pt 91, who all they care about is making a buck and will hire any warm body to fill a seat if they can get away with that. Maybe we should have a database on FAA inspections and operations of air carrier certificate holders so perspective pilots can make informed decisions on who they will work for.

  7. So, a bad day in the simulator, a comment from an instructor your in disagreement with, or leaving a job with an abusive employer.. Setting the stage for another kick in the Jimmie’s for aviation, leading to another government induced pilot shortage.. We will automate before you know it..

  8. Joe Jetstar said “Prospective pilots will not be deterred, they would not be dissuaded by knowing there will be a record database.” Sorry–that ship sailed decades ago.

    We’ve had any number of people that have inquired at the flight school over the years about becoming a pro pilot–asking the question “I had this on my record while a teengager” (arrest, drug use, bad conduct discharge, even SPEEDING TICKETS, etc.–but haven’t had anything subsequent–CAN I STILL GET A PILOT’S LICENSE? WOULD IT EVER BE POSSIBLE FOR ME TO FLY FOR A LIVING?”

    This “database” lasts FOREVER. Is it right that these people are locked out of aviation–or even dissuaded from trying it?

    Most of the large items (drug use, criminal records, etc. are ALREADY reported on a medical application–and if the applicant has had treatment, that is reported as well. Would you actually propose that a failed checkride, sim check, or upgrade become part of a PERMANENT RECORD that would affect a career years later?

    How about if those that feel that this is effective ALSO apply the very same standards to DRIVER’S LICENSES? After all, the chances of being hit by anybody with these prohibitions driving a CAR is far greater than an aircraft accident. Eliminating everyone that has ever had a failed written or driver’s test, or been convicted of traffic violations would keep MOST people off the roads (sarcasm) All in the name of “safety”–reminds me of the British wag that said “The British Government considers itself a failure and at risk every time someone takes to the air!” It’s the only way to assure perfect “safety.”

    • That’s already the case. It took me more tries than it should have for young and dumb me to get my initial CFI almost 30 years ago. The jury’s out on whether – despite my otherwise spotless Part 91 and 121 record, criminal/driving/job history, Master’s degree – I’ve already shot myself in the foot as far as some carriers are concerned.

  9. And what’s gonna happen when “race” is factored into the calculation? All this sounds like “lawsuit city.”

    It’s only a matter of time when “Julio” or “Trayvon” start claiming systemic racism, and an attempt by “the man” to exclude applicants from “disadvantaged” communities — including “LGTB XXX …”

    Folks, this Nation is shifting from the “land of opportunity”, to the “land of entitlement.” The sooner we accept that, the fewer Advils we’ll have to take.

    One step forward, and three steps back ……

  10. Maybe my reading comprehension is off today. How is this different from the PRIA check my company did on me when I got hired 5 years ago? I have to disclose all my skeletons already. Any airline application nowadays requires a full PRIA check, criminal history, accident history. history of farting in church, kindergarten transcripts, etc.