Flight Schools Fight Background Checks

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A bill that's been lurking under the legislative radar in New York for almost four years has been revived by the state Senate and will hurt the flight training industry there, according to local schools and pilot organizations. In 2002, New York, like many other states, thought it prudent to step into federal jurisdiction by trying to institute background checks on student pilots. As protests grew and federal regulations came into play, most states simply dropped their initiatives. However, New York's background-check law has remained on the legislative agenda and was revived last week by a vote in the Senate. If passed by the Assembly and finally adopted as law, it would prevent anyone from taking flying lessons without approval from the state's division of criminal justice services. Industry spokesmen say that will scare away prospective pilots. Richard Kaylor, of Richmor Aviation, which operates three flight schools in upstate New York, told Business First of Buffalo that schools are already required to submit names of students to the federal government so they can be checked against terrorist watch lists so the state initiative is redundant. AOPA spokesman Craig Dotlo said the law would deter students because of the time lag that would be required to process the background check, giving them time to find other activities. Dotlo, a former FBI agent, also noted that any terrorist who does his homework would be careful to avoid circumstances that would trigger something in the check. "What possible good is this doing except preventing flight schools from being profitable?" Dotlo said.