Safety Provisions Include Airline Mandates
Unfortunately, it seems that every bill passed by Congress imposes burdens on business. Such is the case with the recently enacted Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization extension (H.R. 5900, P.L. 111-216).
The legislation, signed into law on Aug. 1, continued taxes and funding authorizations for the FAA through Sept. 30. Additionally, it included “safety” provisions due to a highly effective public lobbying campaign waged by the Colgan crash victims’ families.
While the safety provisions were approved unanimously, the new mandates are not without consequence. In fact, air carriers must take immediate action to comply with this law without the benefit of a public rulemaking process (in other words, without the FAA introducing and passing regulations).
Sec. 203: Pilot Records Database
Before allowing an individual to serve as a pilot, an air carrier shall “access and evaluate” information about the individual from the newly created “pilot’s record database.” This electronic database will be built and maintained by the FAA within three months. The FAA will maintain these records until death and may establish a “reasonable” charge for accessing the database. Records will be provided by the air carrier (see below) and may only be accessed to assess an individual’s qualifications for employment.
The database shall include:
- Airman certificates, including airman medical certificates and type ratings;
- Failed attempts by an individual to pass a practical test;
- Summaries of legal enforcement actions resulting in violations; and
- State driving records
Air carriers and others who have employed an individual as a “pilot of a civil or public aircraft” must “promptly” report to the FAA records (which will be placed in the database) related to:
- The training, qualifications, proficiency, or professional competence of the individual, including comments and evaluations made by a check airman
- Any disciplinary action taken with respect to the individual that was not subsequently overturned; and
- Any release from employment or resignation, termination, or disqualification with respect to employment.
Air carriers must obtain waivers from individual pilots prior to accessing the database; however, the air carrier may refuse to hire a pilot that refuses to sign a waiver. Additionally, air carriers must ensure that information contained in the accessed records is only given to those directly involved in hiring.
Sec. 208: Implementation of NTSB Crewmember Training Recommendations
The FAA shall, within one year, issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to implement NTSB part 121 air carrier crewmember training recommendations related to stall and upset recognition and recovery training (final rule within three years). The agency must issues regulations to require remedial training programs for crewmembers that “have demonstrated performance deficiencies or experienced failures in the training environment.”
Sec. 211: Safety Inspections of Regional Air Carriers
The FAA shall perform, at least once a year, “random, onsite inspections of air carriers that provide air transportation pursuant to a contract with a part 121 air carrier.”
Sec. 212: Pilot Fatigue
Within 180 days, the FAA shall issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (final rule within one year), regarding flight and duty time.
Part 121 air carriers are required to submit to the FAA, within 90 days, a “fatigue risk management plan,” which includes current flight time and duty period limitations, a rest scheme, and annual training to raise fatigue awareness. The FAA has one year after submission to accept or reject plans. Failure to comply with an approved fatigue risk management plan will result in civil penalties.