Pilot records database rolled out by FAA

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Federal Aviation Administration has released its beta test of an online Pilot Records Database designed for air carriers to check the background and training of pilots before they’re hired.

Families of Flight 3407 crash victims and Western New York’s congressional delegation believe this is another step in making the skies safer for the flying public.

“I think the airlines need to know everything about the pilots before they hire them,” said Jennifer West, who lost her husband Ernie West in the 2009 crash in Clarence.

West believes the database is not only long overdue, but critically important.

“I can’t understand how you wouldn’t want to know his background. I mean you check backgrounds for people starting at Walgreens or something. And for someone who’s in charge of all these lives you want to make sure that you have their records,” said West.

Federal investigators determined that the pilot of Colgan Flight 3407 caused the plane to crash because of inflight errors.

Fifty people died, including one man on the ground.

West, along with other Flight 3407 families, traveled to Washington, D.C. many times since the February 2009 tragedy pushing congressional lawmakers to make changes and implement new aviation safety standards.

The Pilot Records Database is part of an airline safety law passed several years ago.

“All of us should now have an increased level of confidence that the pilots in the cockpit are now fully vetted in their experience, in their background, in their “check rides,” in their tests,” said Ken Mellett, whose son Coleman Mellett died in the crash.

The online database will allow air carriers to see information regarding a pilot’s employment history, training and certification.

It’s information that wasn’t easily accessible when Flight 3407 crashed.

“If this database was in place, these people would not be dead,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.

Higgins credited the 3407 families for their “tireless” efforts, calling the database a useful tool in recruiting qualified pilots.

“The individual that was put in the cockpit that night had three violations. He expressed to the airline Continental, or actually Colgan, that he only had one problem. Had that been known he would not have been hired,” Higgins told News 4.

Marvin Renslow, pilot of the ill-fated Colgan 3407, failed three federal “check rides,” but he only acknowledged one on his application.

Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, says the new database is a “common-sense resource,” and a sign of significant progress.

“An airline looking to hire a new pilot. They know exactly what the background is on that pilot. His permanent record is there. It’s instantly accessible,” Collins told News 4.

According to the FAA, the records database is being deployed in multiple phases and will utilize a web-based online application that air carriers and operators can access.

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