The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) called upon the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to rethink its questionable decision to deny requests from NBAA and others in the industry for additional time to comment on new, onerous pilot-reporting requirements.
The FAA’s new data-gathering criteria, outlined in a 200-page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), introduce sweeping new mandates for certain Part 91 operators and others to submit a raft of additional pilot data to the agency, through the use of an electronic Pilot Records Database (PRD). Although the FAA’s new rule was issued March 30, the agency has elected to disallow additional time for pilots and other affected parties to offer first-hand perspectives on the proposal’s most-troubling elements.
“Make no mistake: this plan raises serious privacy, administrative and other concerns in an era of big-data gathering, sharing and use,” said Brian Koester, NBAA’s director of flight operations and regulations. “Certainly, the proposal has the potential to create efficiencies for air carriers under current data-reporting laws. That said, the rules would not enhance safety for everyone, they propose substantial new regulatory burdens for a large segment of the Part 91 community, and for many NBAA members, the plan could create more problems than it solves.”
Koester noted that the new FAA rules would expand the data-collection requirement provisions outlined in the Pilot Records Improvement Act (PRIA). That legislation, enacted in 1997, was intended simply to establish requirements for airlines to conduct pilot-background checks – including aviation experience and history, drug and alcohol testing results and driver-registration records – as part of the hiring process.
As a result of congressional updates to PRIA in 2010, the FAA’s newly proposed rule would widely broaden this mandate, in the process layering on a new administrative burden for Part 91 operators, which often count only a handful of employees in their ranks.
The flaws in the FAA’s new mandates are all the more troubling, given the nearly decade-long effort on pilot-reporting requirements, in which NBAA has been a supportive partner to government. In 2011, the FAA chartered a government-industry Aviation Rulemaking Committee to explore reporting criteria, partly in response to the fatal 2009 Colgan Air accident in Buffalo, NY.
Over the ensuing nine years, a concerted effort was undertaken to examine options for increasing the efficacy of the information in the database, while mitigating concerns raised by NBAA and others. Nevertheless, the resulting rule from the FAA looked past many of those concerns, and only 90 days have been provided for stakeholders to comment on the plan, including its exhaustive list of more than 20 additional technical questions for affected stakeholders.
“It is exasperating that the FAA has given industry just 90 days to unpack a complicated plan amassed over nine years, and released as the aviation community fights for its survival during COVID-19,” said Koester. “It would not seem unreasonable to allow another 30 days for discussion, so we are pursuing other means to encourage the FAA to provide for this minimal, reasonable accommodation.
“Further, given the FAA’s request for industry input on over 20 technical questions, it seems this rulemaking process would have benefitted from an Advanced NPRM to allow the FAA to receive preliminary industry feedback, and include those perspectives in a more thorough and polished proposal.”
With that in mind, Koester pointed to a new NBAA resource association members can use to digest the massive proposal and develop their individual responses for the FAA to help ensure industry’s voice is heard.
The NBAA Regulatory Alert provides operating members with an overview of the proposed rule, highlights concerning provisions, and includes instructions for submitting comments to the FAA. Link to NBAA’s Regulatory Alert and make your voice heard.
“The public comment period for the NPRM ends June 29, 2020, so we need everyone to make their voices heard today,” Koester concluded.