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Higgins: 'Long-awaited' rule for pilot records database posted for public comment

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Fri, Mar 27th 2020 05:00 pm

Final step in Flight 3407 safety reforms to be implemented soon

Congressman Brian Higgins on Friday the Federal Aviation Administration took “long-awaited” action toward implementation of a pilot records database, a safety measure recommended following the crash of Colgan Flight 3407 on Feb. 12, 2009.

The pilot records database was required in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill of 2010 approved by Congress and has been in a beta test phase since December 2017.

Higgins, who has repeatedly joined the Flight 3407 families in pushing for the database and other reforms, said, “Some fights don’t come easy. For years, we have stood alongside Flight 3407 families pushing for improved flight safety and fighting against threats to roll back the progress made. At long last, this brings us to the last measure recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) following the crash, yet to be implemented. We look forward to having the pilot record database in place, delivering greater transparency, accountability and ultimately safer skies for the flying public.” 

A notice of proposed rulemaking was placed in the federal register effective March 30, and will allow for a 90-day public comment period on rules associated with a pilot records database. 

The notice says, “This proposed rule would enhance aviation safety by assisting air carriers in making informed hiring and personnel management decisions using the most accurate and complete pilot records available and electronically accessible. The database created by the proposed rule would contain information maintained by the FAA concerning current airman certificates with any associated type ratings and current medical certificates, including any limitations or restrictions to those certificates, airman practical test failures, and summaries of legal enforcement actions. The PRD would contain air carrier, operator, and FAA records on an individual’s performance as a pilot that could be used as a hiring tool in an air carrier’s decision-making process for pilot employment. These records would remain in the PRD for the life of the pilot.”

The notice cites Flight 3407 as justification for the action:

On February 12, 2009, Colgan Air, Inc. flight 3407 (d/b/a Continental Connection), crashed into a residence in Clarence Center, NY, about 5 nautical miles northeast of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, New York resulting in the death of all 49 passengers on board and one person on the ground. …The NTSB determined that “the probable cause of this accident was the captain’s inappropriate response to activation of the stick shaker, which led to an aerodynamic stall from which the airplane did not recover. 

Contributing factors included:

(1) the flightcrew’s failure to monitor airspeed in relation to the rising position of the low-speed cue,

(2) the flightcrew’s failure to adhere to sterile cockpit procedures,

(3) the captain’s failure to effectively manage the flight, and

(4) Colgan Air’s inadequate procedures for airspeed selection and management during approaches in icing conditions.

Additional safety issues identified by the NTSB in the Colgan Air 3407 accident report included certain deficiencies in the air carrier’s recordkeeping system, as well as the air carrier’s analysis of the flightcrew’s qualifications and previous performance. Specifically, Colgan Air’s records showed that the captain had failed his initial proficiency check on the Saab 340 on October 15, 2007, received additional training, and passed his upgrade proficiency check on October 18, 2007. In addition to this particular failed check at Colgan, the NTSB stated that the captain failed his practical tests for the instrument rating (airplane category) on October 1, 1991; the commercial pilot certificate (single-engine land airplane) on May 14, 2002; and required additional training in three separate training events while a first officer at Colgan. The NTSB deemed these discrepancies in the captain’s training records as noteworthy because the captain had demonstrated previous training difficulties during his tenure at Colgan Air. 

To see the full report or make public comment, go to: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/03/30/2020-04751/pilot-records-database.

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