The FAA released its final electronic Pilot Records Database (PRD) rule today, scaling back some of the reporting requirements but—despite an outpouring of opposition—maintaining corporate flight departments in the applicability.
Released a little more than a year after first proposed, the final rule requires air carriers, public operators, air tour operators, fractional ownerships, and corporate flight departments to enter “relevant” data on pilot employees into the PRD and calls on air carriers and certain other entities, including fractional and air tour operators, to access pilot records for hiring candidates. The rule provides a year for operators to load current pilot records into the database, two years for historical records dating back to 2015, and three years for all historical records. Meanwhile, affected hiring operators must begin reviewing records within six months. Records must remain in the database until the time of a pilot’s death or they reach 99 years of age.
In recognition of NBAA’s concerns regarding the establishment of a definition of “corporate flight department,” the rule eliminated such a formal provision. But the rule essentially still does imply a definition in a footnote that states, “The FAA uses the term corporate flight departments to reference operators of two or more aircraft conducting operations in furtherance of or incidental to a business, solely pursuant to the general operating and flight rules in Part 91 or operating aircraft pursuant to a Letter of Deviation Authority issued under § 125.3.” In addition, the rulemaking also includes those parameters in the applicability section and added rotorcraft.
In the rulemaking, the agency acknowledged the hundreds of comments, including from most of the business and general aviation organizations, asking that corporate operators be excluded. In addition, others sought exclusion for public aircraft operations (primarily government). Organizations expressed concerns about the undue burden such requirements would pose and suggested they offer limited value since the career path for corporate pilots doesn’t traditionally lead to airlines. Others were concerned about privacy and the expansive scope of the records requirement.
“Upon consideration, the FAA determined that in light of the information and data provided by commenters, some requirements of the proposed rule were overly burdensome for certain types of operators,” the agency said, adding, “This rule reduces the reporting burden for certain operators conducting operations without a part 119 certificate, in that they are not required to report specific types of records unless and until requested. Such operators include public aircraft operations, air tour operations, and corporate flight departments.”
Specifically, corporate flight departments, air tour operators, and public operators will not be required to upload training, disciplinary, and separation from employment records to the PRD unless and until requested by a hiring operator. But certain termination and disciplinary action records must be reported, the agency added.
“The FAA determined the most effective way to ensure review of a pilot’s records by a potential employer while reducing extraneous records loaded by the [affected operators] is to require that group to enter only records that may be of particular concern to a hiring employer.”
This marks a scaling back from the original proposal, which sought details such as training and check-ride notes.
However, the FAA disagreed with the contention that these operators should be exempt, saying such a move “would not serve the FAA’s safety mission; overall, this final rule requires an appropriate level of engagement from certain Part 91 operators.” The agency further highlighted the fact that single-aircraft operations are not included.
As for the contention that such requirements would be of little benefit to corporate operations, the FAA said that the rule isn’t designed for the benefit of one operator type over another but for overall safety. “This rule responds to a statutory requirement…As a result of this rule, operators will be better prepared to make informed hiring decisions to support aviation safety.”
The agency did adjust its cost analysis, conceding that in the proposal it “erroneously assumed that corporate flight departments maintain all records in electronic databases and assumed that all records would transfer to the PRD in the first year.” It adjusted the analysis to account for costs for operators to enter records manually.
However, the FAA disagreed with the contention that it ignored the increased cost to Part 91 operators. The agency estimated a “net cost” to the industry as a whole of $67 million over 10 years.
Coming at the behest of Congress, the rulemaking was strongly pushed and supported by the Families of Continental Flight 3407, the organization of family members and friends of the victims of the Feb. 12, 2009, Colgan Air crash.
“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,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson.