Aviation Safety:

Airlines Should Check Pilot Applicants' Safety History

RCED-88-154: Published: Jun 7, 1988. Publicly Released: Jul 8, 1988.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO: (1) identified Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations regarding commercial airline pilot hiring practices; (2) assessed the type and availability of FAA pilot safety background information; and (3) determined whether airlines verified pilot safety background information.

GAO found that: (1) FAA required airline pilots to have a valid FAA certificate; (2) FAA required airlines to perform a security background check, which included employment verification for the last 5 years, but not a check of pilot accident, incident, or violation histories; (3) airlines were largely responsible for developing their own hiring criteria; (4) many airlines required pilot applicants to undergo physical examinations and psychological, drug, and proficiency tests; (5) FAA maintained databases containing records of all pilots' safety histories and certificates, which airlines could inspect; and (6) almost all airlines surveyed knew that the FAA databases existed. GAO also found that: (1) all the airlines surveyed obtained a copy of pilot certificates, but 62 percent did not verify certificate validity with FAA; and (2) 92 percent of the airlines surveyed obtained safety background information from pilot applicants, but 23 percent of these airlines did not verify reported safety transgressions with FAA, and 56 percent did not verify applicants' reported lack of transgressions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action has been taken to inform air executives of the existence of databases and their availability in making pilot-hiring decisions. A centralized addressee has been established so that a single inquiry is all that is required to access both databases. A letter was sent in January 1989.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to inform all airlines about how to access the Airman and Aircraft Registry; the Accident/Incident Data System; and the Enforcement Information System.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Action has been taken to inform air executives of the existence of databases and their availability in making pilot-hiring decisions. A centralized addressee has been established so that a single inquiry is all that is required to access both databases. A letter was sent in January 1989.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to encourage airlines to verify each pilot applicant's certificate validity with the Airman and Aircraft Registry and verify the pilot's flying safety history with FAA's Accident/Incident Data System and the Enforcement Information System and use this information in making pilot-hiring decisions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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