More (Less Tolerant) Reaction To TSA Alien Training Rule

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As AVweb reported Monday, the TSA has issued a new rule about background checks for foreign flight students, and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association welcomed it as fair and balanced. But on Tuesday, AOPA published its own analysis of the rule, and found it wanting. "It applies unnecessary training and burdensome recordkeeping requirements to every flight school and every single flight instructor, whether or not they're training foreign students," AOPA President Phil Boyer said in a news release. "If that's really TSA's intent, they've gone too far." AOPA said it's talking to the TSA to clarify the intent and applicability of the rule, while AOPA's legal and regulatory experts continue a line-by-line analysis of the document.

Tuesday's comments were based on an "initial review of the rule," AOPA's news release said. The new rule requires every school and every freelance flight instructor to register with the TSA, AOPA said. The flight school and individual flight instructors must determine if a flight student is a foreign national. If so, the school or flight instructor must notify the TSA that a non-U.S. citizen has requested flight training. All flight-school employees must take a security training course once a year, and the school must keep records to show the training has been completed. Prospective alien students must fill out an online TSA form, pay a fee estimated at $130, and submit photographs and fingerprints. The flight schools or instructor must keep records on all students, whether citizens or aliens, for at least five years. The rule takes effect Oct. 20 for training in aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds. The TSA estimates the program will cost about $9 million per year to implement ... that's just for the TSA to run it, with private-sector costs running about $5 million. AVweb got a look at the TSA's online training at Oshkosh last summer, but the tutorial is not yet available on the Internet. It comprised a series of scenarios about how to detect and cope with security threats, followed by multiple-choice questions. But the TSA says that training module is only good for the first year; after that, flight schools must come up with their own training program.