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Foundation Perspective

TSA security training

Is it mandatory? Yes, but ...

At the very beginning of 2005, AOPA's Pilot Information Center hotlines were burning with questions from flight instructors about the new Transportation Security Administration alien flight training/citizenship validation rule and its requirement for security awareness training for "all CFIs." Official mentions of high-dollar civil penalties and a mandatory January 18 deadline added the threat of legal bite to the bark.

"The devil is in the details" questions confounded many CFIs as the deadline loomed. As anxious CFIs plied AOPA and the AOPA Air Safety Foundation with questions, AOPA Government and Technical Affairs staff members did everything they could to wrest clarifications from TSA. Early on, while there were still many more questions than answers, ASF sought and received TSA approval to add the security awareness training to its FAA-approved flight instructor refresher clinics.

A scant three business days before the January 18 deadline, TSA officials finally came through with many of the answers. Those answers were posted immediately on AOPA Online, included in updates at ASF refresher clinics, and provided to AOPA members calling the AOPA Pilot Information Center toll-free lines. All those information links, including the module in all ASF refresher clinics, will remain in place as long as they are needed.

For the benefit of instructors who aren't yet connected to the Internet, ASF has collected some of the most frequently asked questions and answers about the new TSA rule and the security awareness training required for instructors.

What's this TSA rule all about? TSA is now requiring instructors (or the flight school that employs instructors) to check and record the citizenship status of every student (U.S. citizen or not) beginning training for a recreational, sport pilot, or private pilot (single or multiengine) certificate; multiengine rating (at any level); or instrument rating.

Are there any specific requirements for instructors under this new rule? Yes. As a start, all active instructors must complete security awareness training.

What if I'm not actively instructing? If you have a current flight instructor certificate but are not actively instructing, you are not required to take the security awareness training, although the TSA encourages you to do so. Instructors with expired CFI certificates are not required to complete the TSA training.

If I'm not employed by a flight school, do I still have to take the training? If you're actively instructing, yes. Part of the early confusion about the training requirement was caused by TSA's erroneous belief that all instructors were employed by flight schools.

I missed the January 18 deadline for taking the TSA training. What will happen to me? The TSA is more interested in getting CFIs trained than in assessing penalties. Active instructors who have not yet completed the training should do so as soon as possible. The TSA online course is the easiest way, but for instructors without Internet access, TSA is making the training course available on CD-ROMs. For information, call the TSA training hotline at 866/427-3287.

The only instructing I do is an occasional flight review or instrument proficiency check. Must I complete the TSA's training and make my flight clients prove their citizenship? Yes, you must complete the security awareness training if you are providing any type of instruction, but you do not have to verify your students' citizenship if you are not providing training toward an FAA recreational, sport pilot, private, multiengine, or instrument rating. Pilots working toward a certificate in airships, balloons, or gliders also are exempt.

How can I prove I've taken the required training? CFIs completing the TSA security awareness training at an ASF refresher clinic will receive official completion certificates; those using the online course may print the TSA certificate available at the end of the course. Hang on to the certificate.

Is this TSA training a one-time-only requirement? No. For CFIs subject to the training requirement, recurrent training will be required at one-year intervals. TSA will not furnish a recurrent training course, but ASF is investigating the possibility of developing such training and including it in both live refresher clinics and online courses.

Many instructors are voicing less-than-kind opinions of the new TSA requirements, including the mandatory CFI training. While AOPA recognizes the importance of preventing terrorists from using aircraft to attack the United States, it believes that TSA has gone beyond its congressionally delegated authority as it pertains to the kind of training that CFIs conduct every day.

Kevin D. Murphy is vice president of safety education for the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. He has been an instructor for more than 30 years and has logged more than 5,000 accident-free hours.

By Kevin D. Murphy

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