Business aircraft operators’ private flight operations under 14 C.F.R. part 91 (Part 91) are now a little less private. Under newly promulgated 14 C.F.R. part 111 (Part 111), certain Part 91 business aircraft operators must now comply with a number of requirements under the Pilot Records Improvement Act (PRIA), as amended, and the electronic Pilot Records Database (PRD) regulations. These operators must now disclose, upon request, records they maintain with respect to their pilot hiring, training and checks, and employment termination.
Specifically, aircraft operators conducting flights under Part 91 using two or more aircraft in furtherance of, or incidental to, their business where the aircraft either (a) require a type rating or (b) are turbine helicopters (business aircraft operators) are now subject to several of the requirements under PRIA and the PRD. In order to understand how the sharing of pilot histories, which had previously only been applicable to information maintained by air carriers, came to apply to more private flight operations, it is helpful to look at the legislative and regulatory history that has led up to what these operators are facing today.
PRIA was enacted in 1997 in response to a series of accidents attributed to pilot error.1 The ensuing discussion revealed that much of a pilot’s history was not shared with hiring airlines because requests were never made of prior employers or because of employer liability concerns around sharing negative employment records. Before PRIA, employers were routinely advised by their counsel to limit or avoid giving employee references and to simply provide facts such as date of hire, position held, and date of employment termination.
Congress enacted PRIA to ensure that air carriers are able to adequately investigate each pilot’s employment background and other information pertaining to pilot performance before making a hiring decision and allowing that individual to serve as a flight crew member in air carrier operations. Importantly, the requirements of PRIA initially applied only to air carriers—that is, aircraft operators certificated under 14 C.F.R. part 119 (Part 119) and authorized to conduct 14 C.F.R. part 121 (Part 121) or 14 C.F.R. part 135 (Part 135) operations. Originally and for two decades, PRIA did not apply to Part 91 operators.