Tennessee law protects flight training

April 18, 2013

Tennessee has protected flight schools from state education fees and other administrative burdens enacted in 2012 that could have driven aviation students out of state.

Following an unsuccessful challenge of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s authority to impose fees and new regulations by one of the affected Part 141 flight schools, AOPA worked to negotiate an exemption protecting all aviation training, already regulated by the FAA, from the new state burdens. Gov. Bill Haslam signed the resulting legislation into law April 16.

Flight schools had calculated costs ranging from $6,000 to $15,000 stemming from the state regulations and fees, costs they were forced to pass on to customers. AOPA Regional Manager Bob Minter gathered information about the new policy’s impact and made a case to state lawmakers detailing federal regulation of aviation training, and the impact on small businesses of a cumbersome state application process and initial fee structure that put Tennessee flight schools at a competitive disadvantage. Minter presented the information to Haslam’s office, and the governor organized a meeting including the commission, flight schools, instructors, and the Tennessee Aviation Association. That resulted in an accord, and legislation backed by the Higher Education Commission that earned approval by lawmakers.

“This was an important issue for the aviation community in Tennessee,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy. “In the last few years we have seen several states begin to look at flight training as if it were just another educational program to be regulated. The result of these new administrative burdens would have made flight instruction unavailable or unaffordable.”