Pilot Background Checks Vetted By GAO

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TSA, FAA Procedures Reviewed...

The TSA and FAA need to be more careful and consistent in conducting background checks of pilots when they authorize waivers for aerial advertisers to fly over restricted stadium airspace, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) said in a report issued last Friday. The report, in the form of a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge from Cathleen Berrick, the GAO's director of homeland security and justice issues, concluded that "vulnerabilities and inefficiencies in the background check process" need to be addressed, in the event that the waiver restriction on aerial advertisers is repealed. Further, "such actions could also improve the quality of background checks for all general aviation pilots seeking waivers of security-related flight restrictions," the report says. In February 2003, Congress passed legislation that prevented aerial-advertising pilots from flying near stadium airspace during certain sporting events by suspending the waiver process for one year. In January 2004, Congress passed legislation to continue this restriction indefinitely. The new GAO report says the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security asked for a review of FAA and TSA threat assessments conducted relevant to aerial-advertising operations. The report aims to identify the FAA's and TSA's processes for mitigating the identified threat, determine whether established processes were followed and identify factors that may limit their effectiveness.