TSA Groundings Appealed

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Two Saudis Suspended, Two Get Certificates Back...

The Transportation Security Administration has suspended the airman certificates of two Saudi Arabian Airlines pilots and restored the flying privileges of two others. The Saudi Press Agency said airline lawyers are appealing the suspensions of Moen Hassan Zarie and Tarek Hassan Jifry under the recently announced rule that allows the TSA to order the FAA to suspend airman certificates if it believes those holding them pose a security threat. The airline was apparently able to convince TSA authorities that Nabil Mohammed Adawi and Khaled Fahd Al-Olayan were not security risks, and their certificates were returned Jan. 22, the Arab News reported last Saturday. Zarie and Jifry continue their battle. The still-suspended pilots appealed to the NTSB's chief administrative judge but, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal, he rejected the appeals because of the way the act creating the TSA is written. The judge said the 2001 Aviation and Transportation Security Act compelled him to assume that the TSA is correct in considering the two pilots security risks. The pilots are taking their case to another NTSB judge but he apparently said there can't be a hearing until the TSA makes public its now-classified evidence against them. That same act allows the TSA to keep the evidence secret for security reasons. We wouldn't even know this much about the case if the pilots hadn't taken their case to the NTSB, which still conducts its proceedings in public.

...Saudis To Issue Their Own Licenses

The loss of flight privileges in the U.S. can apparently ground a pilot in other countries because many countries issue pilots' licenses based on whether applicants are qualified to fly in the U.S. The Saudi government has apparently decided to sidestep that practice and, according the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, will start issuing its own licenses within a month. The Saudis believe the homegrown licenses will be valid in all other countries, including the U.S. Other Arab countries are doing the same, the paper said. FAA officials were not immediately available to comment.  The FAA said the Saudis were among 11 whose certificates were suspended last August in an unpublicized move by the TSA and FAA. Aharq Al-Awsat said the Saudis lost their certificates in January but FAA spokesman Greg Martin confirmed Wednesday that the certificates in question were among the original 11 and no more suspensions or revocations had been issued. Publicity about the suspensions came at a delicate time in Saudi-U.S. relations. Negotiations are underway for the use of Saudi Arabian military installations for a possible invasion of Iraq.