Calif. county orders security checks

San Diego County to vet flight schools

February 6, 2014

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Feb. 5 to move forward with plans to impose local certification requirements for flight schools training foreign students, a move that the general aviation community has vigorously opposed. If finally adopted, the proposed ordinance would require every flight school operator and independent flight instructor training foreign flight students at a county airport to annually certify to the county their compliance with all foreign flight student screening, vetting, and/or monitoring requirements.

A similar statute enacted by state lawmakers in New York was struck down by a federal judge after AOPA filed suit in 2007. AOPA argued that the state law in that case usurped federal authority, was redundant, and imposed a significant burden on flight schools. The court found the New York statute unenforceable, and unconstitutional.

In a letter to the county supervisors, Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy, wrote that, while well intentioned, “the proposed ordinance is totally redundant to existing federal requirements” and advised them that “while doing nothing to improve aviation security, it will have a chilling effect on prospective student pilots, as well as an adverse business effect on flight schools, fixed base operators, and independent flight instructors in the county.”

Pecoraro’s letter reiterated the federal judge’s conclusions in the New York decision,  particularly that Congress has clearly delegated responsibility for aviation security exclusively to the federal government.  

The ordinance has also been opposed by the Experimental Aircraft Association, the National Association of Flight Instructors, and airport advisory committees at several of the affected airports as well as flight school owners and others in the local aviation community. The Southern California county operates eight airports.

AOPA will continue working to prevent final adoption of the ordinance, and encourage San Diego pilots to contact their supervisors to oppose the measure.