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FAA releases final rule on pilot records database

The FAA has released a final rule that requires air carriers and other operators to report their pilots’ employment history, training, and qualifications in an electronic database. Operators seeking to hire pilots must review database records on applicants.

Photo by Chris Rose.

The rule will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, but implementation will be gradual: Operators must begin reviewing database records six months after the rule’s publication date. At the one-year mark, operators must begin reporting and reviewing database records, but they will have “three years and 90 days to transition and fully comply with the rule,” the FAA said in a May 26 news release.

Entities with compliance responsibilities under the rule include Part 119 certificate holders, fractional ownership programs, those who hold letters of authorization to conduct air tour operations in accordance with FAR 91.147, corporate flight departments, and governmental units that conduct “public aircraft operations.”

Eight types of information about staff pilots and prospective hires were made mandatory for reporting, according to the news release. The FAA will publish an advisory circular to accompany the rule—which was “thoroughly debated and incorporates feedback from all aviation stakeholders,” the FAA said.

FAA Administrator Steve Dickson acknowledged the role of family members and close friends of the victims of the February 12, 2009, fatal crash of an air carrier Bombardier DHC–8-400 on an instrument approach to Buffalo-Niagara International Airport in New York in bringing about the safety-of-flight reforms.

“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. With it, employers will be able to quickly and thoroughly make informed hiring decisions to keep our skies safe,” he said.

The NTSB said the probable cause of the crash in which the 49 people aboard and one person on the ground were killed was the captain’s “inappropriate response” to warnings of a stall, “from which the airplane did not recover,” and several contributing factors concerning the crew’s management of the flight and inadequate procedures by Colgan Air “for airspeed selection and management during approaches in icing conditions.”

After the crash, news media widely reported that the flight’s captain had failed several flight tests before Colgan hired him.

Since the database rule was proposed in March 2020, AOPA has been an active participant in the review process, focusing especially on ensuring that the database did not impose unsustainably onerous administrative burdens on general aviation operators.

Modifications made to the original proposal—on which an estimated 800 stakeholder comments were submitted—that should help ease the burden on GA include eliminating a user fee for accessing the database; providing pilots with remedies for inaccurate information posted about them in the database; shielding voluntary safety reports made by pilots from inclusion in the database; exempting single-aircraft flight departments from having to upload records; and allowing certain non-air carrier operations, including public aircraft, air tours, and corporate flight operations, to report most required information only upon individual requests. AOPA continues to review the final rule and will report further on its analysis.

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Pilot Regulation, Aviation Industry

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