U.S. FAA Finalizing Electronic Pilot Records Database

By David Shepardson | May 26, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday it is finalizing rules establishing a long-delayed electronic pilot records database demanded by Congress in 2010 in the wake of a fatal crash.

In March, the FAA published proposed rules to establish a new database to provide potential employers with rapid access to information about pilot performance and employment records after the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in February 2009 near Buffalo killed 50 people. The FAA said operators will have until late 2024 to fully comply with the rule.

In July, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cited the FAA’s failure to finalize the database as a contributing factor in a February 2019 fatal crash of an Atlas Air cargo plane.

The new final rule, which has been submitted for formal publication by the FAA, requires air carriers to report pilots’ employment history, training, and qualifications to the database and to review electronic records when considering pilots for employment.

“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 in a statement.

The FAA said the database is “intended to help ensure that no records about a pilot’s performance with previous employers that could influence a future employer’s decision go unidentified.”

The captain of Flight 3407 failed three tests known as “check rides” but only disclosed one to the airline. “Access to these records is critical to ensuring that airlines have as much information as possible about a pilot’s qualifications and safety records prior to making a hiring decision,” New York lawmakers wrote in February.

In the Atlas crash, the NTSB cited the first officer’s inappropriate response to an inadvertent activation of the airplane’s go-around mode that resulted in his spatial disorientation and led him to place the airplane in a steep dive from which it did not recover.

The NTSB said the first officer had a long history of training difficulties at several employers and cited “deliberate attempts” to hide employment history deficiencies.

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