February 15, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
The FAA has temporarily suspended its policy of expunging certain legal enforcement actions from pilot files while it studies how to comply with a law establishing a database of pilot records to be used by air carriers to check backgrounds of potential hires.
The FAA published formal notice of the suspension of expunctions Feb. 11 as it works to comply with provisions of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010. The law, which took effect Aug. 1, 2010, amended the Pilot Records Improvement Act (‘PRIA’) by directing the FAA to create the database, and requiring air carriers to use it to perform background checks on pilots before hiring them.
The database will contain various types of records, including summaries of legal enforcement actions resulting in a finding by the FAA of a violation. As of the law’s effective date, the FAA has been obligated to preserve those records until notified that the individual is deceased.
“Previously, some types of legal enforcement records were expunged after five years. The FAA has suspended this expunction policy while it determines the full scope of the new law's effect on the expunction policy,” says the FAA Web page addressing questions about the new policy.
The last expunction of records was Nov. 1, 2010. The FAA will continue to expunge records of administrative actions and cases with no enforcement action.
The FAA has convened a panel of industry experts, including AOPA, the National Air Transportation Association, and the National Business Aviation Association, to issue recommendations by May on development and administration of the database. The group met for the first time last week and will submit recommendations to the administrator by the end of May.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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