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Visit AOPA's Guide to TSA's Alien Flight Training/Citizenship Validation Rule, a step-by-step guide, for the latest updates, including exemptions, to the rule.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued an "interim final rule" on "Flight Training for Aliens and Other Designated Individuals" September 20, 2004, without the normal public review and comment period. TSA said the "security benefits" of the rule justified bypassing the normal public process.
The rule requires that everyone prove his or her citizenship status before receiving flight training that could be used toward his or her recreational, sport pilot, private pilot (single or multiengine) certificate, multiengine rating, or instrument rating in an aircraft that weighs 12,500 pounds or less. Foreign flight students must complete a background check process with TSA.
The rule also mandates initial and recurrent "security awareness training programs" for each flight instructor, including independent instructors, ground instructors, and any flight school employee who comes in contact with students, regardless of whether they are training foreign students or not. Instructors who have current certificates but are not involved in teaching are encouraged to take the free training, while CFIs whose certificates have expired are encouraged, but not required, to take the training. Flight instructors, ground instructors, and flight schools must issue and maintain a record of such training, Independent flight instructors must keep a copy of their initial and recurrent security awareness training documents, and flight schools must keep these records for one year after an employee leaves the school. Again, these records are subject to TSA and FAA audit.
Congress directed TSA to issue the rule in Section 612 of "Vision 100," the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization act. Under previous legislation, the Department of Justice (DOJ) screened and approved all foreign applicants for flight training in aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds. Vision 100 and TSA's rule shift the screening responsibility to TSA and require that any foreign flight student be cleared by TSA.
The rule directly affects more than 650,000 U.S.-certificated pilots, 85,000 resident aliens with U.S. pilot certificates, 93,700 flight students, 88,700 flight instructors, and some 3,400 flight schools. The rule requires every U.S. citizen student and certificated pilot and all aliens to prove his or her citizenship status prior to undertaking flight training for a recreational, sport pilot, private pilot (single or multiengine) certificate, multiengine rating, or instrument rating in an aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or less.
The rule imposes new regulatory burdens on small flight schools and independent flight instructors. When training foreign flight students, these small entities and individuals must now register with TSA and be validated by the FAA, determine the citizenship/nationality status and positive identification of each flight student prior to providing flight training for a recreational, sport pilot, private pilot (single or multiengine) certificate, multiengine rating, or instrument rating in an aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or less and give the required notification to TSA. The rule also requires flight schools and flight instructors to provide security awareness training to each ground and flight instructor and any other employee who has a direct contact with a flight school student (regardless of citizenship or nationality) and to issue and maintain records of this training. Instructors who have current certificates but are not involved in teaching are encouraged to take the free training, while CFIs whose certificates have expired are encouraged, but not required, to take the training.
Many flight instructors have told AOPA that while they've completed TSA's online security awareness training course, they've been unable to print the certificate of completion. Now there's a solution.
"We worked with TSA to come up with an alternate means of showing compliance, and it follows a well-established aviation convention," said Rob Hackman, AOPA manager of regulatory and certification policy. "Much like an endorsement, instructors can now make an entry in a logbook or other permanent record to show they've completed the required training."
TSA has provided AOPA with alternate forms that can also be used. The forms are slightly different for independent flight instructors [ PDF document] and for employees of a flight school [ PDF document].
If a flight instructor chooses to use a logbook entry, it should include the same information as contained on the alternate form, including name, CFI number, date of training, type of training (initial or recurrent), and type of program (TSA or approved alternate).
The endorsement should include the statement: "I certify that I received security awareness training, as required by 49 CFR part 1552, on the date indicated above. I also certify that any alternate security awareness training program I used to comply with 49 CFR part 1552 meets the criteria in 49 CFR 1552.23(c)." and the CFI's signature.
For more information, see AOPA's comprehensive online guide.
While AOPA does not oppose the intent of the rule and recognizes the importance of preventing terrorists from using aircraft to attack the United States, we believe this rule goes beyond the scope of authority granted by Congress in Section 612 of "Vision 100," the FAA reauthorization act, as it pertains to training in the smaller category of aircraft. AOPA is opposed to TSA's broad-brush application approach that adversely affects all flight schools and most flight instructors.
AOPA will continue to work with TSA to ensure that the rule meets with congressional intent and minimizes its impact on pilots and the flight training community.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.