N.Y. Pilot Background Check Law Struck Down

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A U.S. District Court judge has ruled that the state of New York lacks the jurisdiction to require background checks on student pilots. AOPA and seven flight schools filed suit against the law, and on Aug. 2 Judge Gary Sharpe ruled in favor of AOPA's motion for summary judgment. In essence, the ruling affirms that the federal government has sole jurisdiction over the regulation and security of aviation. "This law didn't do anything to enhance security for New Yorkers," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "It was unnecessary and discriminatory, and it violated the U.S. Constitution." The judge found that the TSA already has a background check system in place and that Congress has already decided that a uniform system of regulations should guide aviation activity throughout the country. Allowing states to put their own spin on those regulations would create a patchwork of differing regulations that would negate the mandated principal of uniformity. New York was having a hard time implementing the law. The FBI refused to allow third-party access to criminal record files, so background checks were limited to illegal activity within New York alone.