Pilot Records Database

This is Going on Your Permanent Record

The new Pilots Records Database (PRD) maintains employer and FAA records on your performance as a pilot for life. The PRD maintains your record until you reach 99 years old, or until 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 February 12, 2009. The captain 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 the PRIA because, from 1987 to 1994, seven fatal commercial airline accidents were attributed to errors made by pilots who had been hired without background safety checks. Later reviews of these pilots’ records revealed prior safety violations or training problems. Their new air carriers were unaware of these violations or problems. According to the FAA, the PRD modernizes pilot record-sharing. 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 significant incidents about a pilot’s performance go unidentified.

Who will use the PRD?

Two groups:

  1. Companies that must check the PRD before hiring. These are called “reviewing entities.”
  2. Companies that must provide records to the PRD even though they are not required to review PRD records before hiring a pilot. These are called “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. The pilot must grant 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 are required to be submitted. Under current practice with PRIA, pilot records are exchanged in their entirety. The PRD will indicate what records exist about a pilot. The operator is responsible for determining if further information is needed for a pilot to begin service.

How are you protected?
  1. 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.
  2. No person may use the database for any purpose except as expressly authorized under Part 111.
  3. 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. 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 report routinely. However, certain records are not subject to required contemporaneous reporting. For example, operators 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.

However, if the record reports a disciplinary action that results 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.

This article appeared in the September, 2021 issue of Business & Commercial Aviation as a Point of Law article.