FAA to tell airlines to check pilots' test records

WASHINGTON - U.S. airlines will be told they should check the private-plane flying records of pilots who are applying for jobs, part of an effort by regulators to boost regional carrier safety after a fatal crash near Buffalo.

The Federal Aviation Administration, after an all-day meeting yesterday with industry, said it also planned to update rules designed to prevent pilot fatigue and to ask more carriers to voluntarily share data with the government to improve safety.

The FAA wants "to make sure that people have the feeling that when they board a regional jet, it will be safe, and it will be flown by a pilot that's well-trained and well-rested," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

The FAA is acting in the wake of the Feb. 12 crash of a Continental Express flight near Buffalo that killed 50 people.

Pinnacle Airlines Corp., whose Colgan unit operated the flight for Continental, has said the flight's pilot, Capt. Marvin Renslow, did not disclose when he applied in 2005 to join Colgan that he had failed two flight tests in small planes. FAA test records for such pilots are not available to airlines unless applicants waive their privacy rights for prospective employers.

The FAA in 2007 reminded carriers that they could ask pilots for waivers to gain access to the records. Now, the FAA will recommend that they do so, Administrator Randy Babbitt said.

The FAA also may recommend that Congress change the law to make pilot records more accessible.

Pinnacle has said it did not know whether Colgan would have hired Renslow had it been aware of his test failures.

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