As many pilots may already know, the FAA has long had an expunction policy to remove from its records information about pilot enforcement actions after 5 years. Last August, Congress passed into law a new provision to 49 USC 44703 that mandates that the FAA establish an electronic database to keep records of enforcement actions for the life of the pilot.
What's the new law?
The Pilot Records Improvement Act (PRIA) is a law that requires airlines to perform background checks prior to hiring a pilot. The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, signed August 1, 2010, changes how PRIA works. The changes it made require the FAA to change how it handles pilot records.
How did the new law change PRIA?
The new law requires employers to give all the records they must report under PRIA to the FAA. The FAA will put those employer records, along with all the records the FAA must provide under PRIA, into a pilot records database. Airlines will then check the pilot records database to fulfill their PRIA requirements.
Now how does the information flow and how did it effect expunctions?
The new law now requires the FAA to retain certain legal enforcement records until the agency is notified that a pilot has died. Previously, some types of legal enforcement records were expunged after five years. The FAA has suspended this expunction policy while it determines the full scope of the new law's effect on the expunction policy. The law required the FAA to begin keeping the records starting August 1, 2010.
The last time the FAA expunged legal enforcement records was on November 1, 2010. This covered records that came due for expunction during October 2010.
My understanding is for administrative enforcement actions (warning notices and letters of correction) the expunction policy still applies for these actions. The new law does not require the FAA to put these types records in the database.
However, the new law considers practical test history to be part of the pilot's record.
The FAA is currently determining the best way to collect and retain this information to meet the requirements of the new law.
As you can imagine, it can be very difficult to navigate the new expunction policy/ process by yourself if you an issue or question. Contact a lawyer familiar with the process to help you consider your options.