In a recently-released report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office examined the security of general aviation and U.S. flight training programs. The report titled “GENERAL AVIATION SECURITY Weaknesses Exist in TSA’s Process for Ensuring Foreign Flight Students Do Not Pose a Security Threat” admits that when non-U.S. citizen flight students apply for pilot certificates the government does not fully vet them to ensure that they are not illegal aliens. The report blames most of the issue on the lack of communication between federal agencies including the Transportation Security Administration the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
A collateral issue has also emerged alleging that those Americans who appear on the TSA’s “no fly” list may still receive flight training despite the fact that they may not legally board a commercial airline (see article). The fallout from this report and the ensuing media sensation could trigger significant additions to and changes in the security measures imposed by the TSA and other government agencies on local flight schools. Given the already onerous regulatory climate in which flight schools must operate additional security requirements will set traps for unsuspecting flight school operators. Experienced legal counsel will be an essential tool for owners and operators attempting to navigate this ever-changing regulatory landscape.