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New California Law Worries Flight Schools, CFIs

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A hearing in California on Monday night was packed with flight instructors and flight school operators worried about the impact of a new California law on their profession. The law requires flight schools to comply with various kinds of oversight and fees that are meant to protect students from financial losses if a school should suddenly close down. However, operators have complained that the new rules are so burdensome and expensive that most flight schools in the state would be forced out of business. Schools must register with the state by Aug. 1 under the law, which took effect on Jan. 1. Michael France, director of regulatory affairs for the National Air Transportation Association, told AVweb on Wednesday that the regulations are "burdensome," and according to a NATA survey, up to 90 percent of the flight schools in the state would close down if they are forced to comply. "This could really have an impact," he said. "We've proposed some changes to the regulations, and we hope we can find a solution."

AOPA's California representative, John Pfeifer, said this week he has asked the state to push back the registration deadline to Jan. 1, 2011, to allow time to work things out. "It has become clear from our meetings with legislators that their sole intent was to protect students financially, and they clearly did not anticipate the potential damage of this regulation," Pfeifer said. "So it is our hope that we can now buy some time to work out a more reasonable solution before any damage is done." The California Pilots Association also is opposed to the new law, and has asked members to write to their representatives in government to protest it. The Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) has submitted a letter to various officials in the State of California expressing opposition to the law. According to SAFE, the state's rules also apply to individual independent CFIs, but other advocacy groups have said it's unclear whether the law covers those activities.

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