Executive Summary: The Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has published a final rule to transition from the Pilot Records Improvement Act (“PRIA”) to the electronic Pilot Records Database. The rule is effective August 9, 2021.
Background on PRIA and the PRD Act: In 1997, the PRIA was enacted in response to a series of aircraft accidents attributed to pilot error. PRIA requires a hiring air carrier to obtain certain records from the FAA, current and previous air carrier employers, and the National Driver Register (“NDR”). In 2010, Congress enacted the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Act, which included the Pilot Record Database Act (the “PRD Act”). See 49 U.S.C. §44703(i). In the PRD Act, Congress directed the FAA to create an electronic Pilot Records Database (the “PRD”). In 2015, the FAA began placing its records in the PRD.
The FAA’s Final Rule: On June 10, 2021, the FAA published a final rule amending Title 14 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (the “FARs”) to add a new part 111 addressing the Pilot Records Database. The final rule is intended to transition from the PRIA requirements to the PRD, as required by the PRD Act. The final rule becomes effective on August 9, 2021.
The final rule requires all Part 119 certificate holders, fractional ownership programs, persons authorized to conduct air tour operations in accordance with § 91.147, persons operating a corporate flight department under part 91 or part 125, and governmental entities conducting public aircraft operations (collectively referred to as “reporting entities”) to report relevant records to the PRD pursuant to the new 14 CFR part 111. Part 119 certificate holders, fractional ownership programs and persons conducting air tour operations must also review records in the PRD prior to allowing an individual to begin service as a pilot. The final rule refers to these entities as “reviewing entities.”
The final rule does not impose new substantive recordkeeping requirements on air carriers, but it does, in some circumstances, change the scope of the records required to be reported.
While records are being populated in the PRD, carriers are required to continue to comply with PRIA. For records created before June 10, 2022, a reporting entity must continue to maintain all PRIA-required records for five years from the date the record was created. 14 CFR §111.215(c). A reporting entity must respond to PRIA requests for historical records or, in the alternative, report those records to the PRD for the requesting entity to review. By September 9, 2024, the FAA intends to complete the transition from PRIA to the PRD.
Accessing the PRD: Each operator must submit an application for access to the PRD by September 8, 2021. 14 CFR §111.15(a). The application for access to the PRD must contain the name of a designated responsible person(s) who will manage records and be responsible for all actions taken within the PRD for a particular operator. 14 CFR §111.15(c). Section 111.15(d) contains a list of job titles/descriptions that are allowed to serve as the designated responsible person(s). No person may use the PRD for any purpose other than to inform a hiring decision regarding a pilot or to report information on behalf of a reporting entity. 14 CFR §111.20. Records must remain in the PRD until the FAA receives official notice of a pilot’s death or an FAA audit reveals that 99 years have passed since the date of birth on record for a particular pilot. 14 CFR §111.40.
Access to and Evaluation of PRD Records: Reviewing entities must review a pilot’s records in the PRD prior to permitting the pilot to begin service as a required flight crewmember. 14 CFR §111.105. A reviewing entity must review (1) all FAA records in the PRD as described in §111.135; (2) all records in the PRD submitted by a reporting entity; (3) all motor vehicle driving records obtained in accordance with §111.110; and (4) the employment history the pilot provides to the PRD in accordance with subpart D of the PRD regulations. 14 CFR §111.105. If, upon review of a pilot’s employment history, a reviewing entity determines that records may be missing from the PRD, the reviewing entity must submit a request to the pilot’s previous employer through the PRD to report any applicable records. 14 CFR §111.105(4). To access a pilot’s records, the reviewing entity must obtain consent from the pilot (documented by the pilot in accordance with §111.310). 14 CFR §111.120.
Reviewing entities must begin using the PRD to evaluate FAA records on December 7, 2021. 14 CFR §111.100(b). Reviewing entities must begin using the PRD to evaluate all other records by June 10, 2022. 14 CFR §111.100(b).
Reporting of Records by Air Carriers and Operators:
Each reporting entity must report to the PRD the following records for each individual employed as a pilot:
Pilot Access and Responsibilities: Pursuant to §111.310, before a reviewing entity may access a pilot’s records in the PRD, the pilot must apply for access to the PRD and provide written consent to the FAA for release of the pilot’s records to the reviewing entity.
Advisory Circular 120-68-J: The FAA is currently finishing a new advisory circular on the PRD regulations. The advisory circular should be published soon, and it will likely contain practical guidance regarding compliance with the PRD regulations.