July 14, 2017

Background Checks Part 2: AIE vs. FOIA

Claudia Culmone

Safety is paramount in the aviation industry and hiring the right pilot is important in maintaining that high standard. In a previous post, we looked at driving records. While running a Federal Aviation Administration records check is required under the Pilot Records Improvement Act of 1996 (PRIA), you also have the option to run an Accident, Incident and Enforcement (AIE) report; or submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. However, what is the difference between the two?

Under federal law, pilots, and/or the company that owns the plane, are required to file a report concerning any accident or incident the plane is involved in. This report is called the Accident, Incident and Enforcement (AIE) Report and must include data such as:

  • When and where the event took place
  • Weather conditions at the time of the event
  • Injuries that occurred to any occupants in the aircraft
  • The make/model of the aircraft involved
  • Description of what happened 

The FAA then analyzes the information from this report, conducts an investigation, and makes a determination as to whether any enforcement action should be initiated against the pilot or the company. The enforcement action may involve a fine, or even a move to suspend or revoke the pilot’s license.

When you make a request for the AIE report, you must provide the FAA with the pilot’s airman certificate number. The FAA then conducts a search of its files with that number and reports whether there are records of an accident or incident, or if records do not exist. If there is a record, the report lists basic information pertaining to the event. If the case has been closed, the report also shows any enforcement actions taken.

In addition to this information on the AIE report, the FAA provides prospective employers with the expiration date for the airman certificate; the types of airplanes that the pilot is licensed to fly or provide flight instruction; and any medical information that pertains to the pilot’s flying skills, such as the need for corrective lenses.

If an AIE report shows the pilot has a record, or if the employer is aware of an accident or incident the pilot was involved in, it may be a good idea to submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The advantage of a FOIA request lies in the fact that it produces more information than you receive on the AIE. This gives you the ability to conduct a deeper screening of the pilot, which results in a higher safety standard for your company and the clients you serve.

FOIA is a specialized search and requires more information than the pilot’s airman certificate number. In place of submitting the airman certificate number for a general check, you would provide a statement that the request is being made under FOIA as well as a description of the records that are being sought. For example, perhaps you want to see a copy of the accident and incident report that was filed with the FAA on a specific date. In your request, you would provide the date of the report, the pilot or company that submitted the report, the name of the report, and any other relevant information that would enable the FAA to find it.

Since a FOIA request takes more time for the FAA to respond to, the costs to conduct one vary. Therefore, you should include information on what your budget is for the search. Aviation companies fall into the FAA’s fee category of commercial use; any costs associated with duplication of the record, review time and search time will be charged to your company.

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