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From engineers and mechanics through to pilots, air traffic controllers and cabin crew, passengers place their trust in the work of aviation professionals every day. That is why detailed background checks are essential. If you are pursuing a career in aviation, you need to understand what these checks are, how they work, how they differ from region to region, and what you should do to prepare for them.

Jainita Hogervorst, Director of Dubai-based Aviation Consultancy Aerviva, provides an overview of this crucial subject and shares her advice on how to manage background checks as a candidate or staff member.

What are background checks?

“Background checks are run on prospective candidates to assess if they are suitable for working in the aviation industry,” explains Jainita. “While there are some variations from region to region and role to role, many aspects remain constant. Typically, a background check will involve a criminal records check, job experience verification, and security clearance.”

A criminal records check is when the relevant authority will search national and international databases for any record of criminal activity. This could be convictions, arrests or any upcoming charges. “Then the previous experience and education verification process usually involves getting references from former jobs and schools,” says Jainita. “They’ll want to double check that you really attended these institutions, and might also ask about your performance. Security clearance is the stage that varies the most, both in terms of region and role,” continues Jainita.

It is important to understand that, when choosing aviation as a career path, especially if your position is classified as a “security function” (more on that later), you will need to consent to these checks, points out Jainita. “You will need to give your permission for these checks to happen, and may have to provide biometric data like your fingerprints. So, be prepared for this as there is no way to pursue a career in our sector without giving this consent. This might not be applicable to back-office jobs, but expect such checks, if your work involves getting a security clearance.”

How do background checks vary by region?

While the basics of aviation background checks are the same, there are some specific variations from region to region, as Jainita explains. “In the US, it is the Transport and Security Administration (TSA) that vets individuals applying for any aviation job that requires you to enter airport security identification display areas (SIDA). Along with the standard criminal and job history checks, they also check for lawful presence in the US. Additionally, there is a recurring check of the watchlist maintained by the Terrorist Screening Center.”

In the EU, there are two distinct types of background checks: Standard and Enhanced. “The enhanced check involves screening by intelligence agencies or other relevant authorities, whereas the simple check only requires previous experience, education and criminal record checks,” Jainita explains. “Anyone involved in security controls, screening or access control must have an enhanced check. So, for example, if you look up a Ryanair check-in position, it will require you to pass a 5-year security background check as part of the application process.”

How do background checks vary by role?

While anyone working in aviation is required to have some form of background check, the depth and frequency of these checks vary depending on your role.

Jobs with a “security function”

“In Europe, the EASA distinguishes between jobs where you have a ‘security responsibility’ and those where you have a ‘security function,'” Jainita points out. “A security responsibility means monitoring security is not your main task, but you need to remain vigilant to security issues during your work. This refers to pilots, cabin crew, air traffic controllers and other airport staff with security clearance. Then there are those with a ‘security function’ – staff who screen hand luggage and cargo, are responsible for access control, or who work in auditing, inspecting and cybersecurity. For these later functions, background checks are more detailed and thorough.”


Pilots working in the US, or planning to, should be aware of the Pilots Records Database (PRD), explains Jainita. “Introduced in 2021, this is a pilot archive maintained by the FAA – it contains records for every licenced pilot in the US from the airlines they have flown with, and the FAA,” she says. “Its main function is to ensure proper training and competence. For example, if a pilot has failed tests or had incidents working for one airline, this is on their record. If they apply for jobs at another airline, their new company will be aware of these concerns.”

MRO positions

Security clearance is also required to work in MRO positions, points out Jainita. “In the US, you will be required to complete a background check and submit your fingerprints for cross referencing with criminal databases,” she explains. “Furthermore, for many MRO positions you will need the checks reliance for anyone with SIDA clearance.” For example, positions at American Airlines for Material Logistics Specialists require FAA criminal background checks for unescorted access privileges.

“It is a similar situation in Europe, although there are variations for each EU member state,” continues Jainita. In the case of Germany, German airside security clearance (ZÜP) is required to apply for an MRO engineering position. “This process involves submitting records of your residence for the past 10 years, along with previous experience, education and training details.”

Tips of background checks for prospective candidates

So, what advice does Jainita have for those who are considering aviation or who are already in the profession?

“My first recommendation is to be very careful and consistent with keeping records,” advises Jainita. “If you move abroad, or travel somewhere for more than 28 days, keep a really clear document trail of your residence and job history. And make sure you get a criminal record statement at the end of your residence in one country – this can save a lot of hassle when getting your criminal record checks in another country.”

“Another point relates to driving, especially if you are a pilot,” continues Jainita. “In the US and many other countries, your driver’s license and record will be checked regularly if you’re a pilot. So be careful to keep a clean record and avoid driving offenses.”

“Finally, although it’s an obvious one, make sure you keep your passports and ID documents up to date,” says Jainita. “The very first step in any of these checks is identity verification. So, if your passport is out of date, you will fall at the first hurdle.”

“Ultimately, safety is the number one priority in our industry, and these checks are there for a reason. Keeping on top of your documentation is a small price to pay for the exciting career opportunities aviation has to offer.”

We tried our best to cover the main matters related to background checks in aviation, but we understand that every situation is different. At Aerviva, we are happy to consult you on this and other matters related to professions in aviation. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us.