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Another state advances pilot background check requirementAnother state advances pilot background check requirement

The Honorable Joseph L. Bruno
Chairperson
Senate Committee on Rules
New York State Senate
Legislative Office Bldg.
Albany, NY 12247

Re: NY Assembly Bill 11863

Dear Chairman Bruno:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is a membership association consisting of over 380,000 pilots and aircraft owners nationwide, including 14,560 in New York. On their behalf, we urge your opposition to legislation pending before the New York Legislature that would impose criminal background checks for individuals seeking flight training. Passage of this legislation does nothing to enhance security or protect the citizens of your state but would impose unnecessary restriction and encumbrances on those who seek to learn to fly, an activity regulated and controlled by the federal government.

The association's objection to these bills is based on the fact the federal government, not individual states, is responsible for regulating flight training, maintaining one national standard. In addition:

  • Assembly Bill 11863 as written will create an administrative burden on flight schools and the Division of Criminal Justice, which must provide consent for the more than 3,600 student pilots and 18,650 active pilots in New York who, by federal regulations, are required to receive flight training every two years in order to exercise the privileges of their certificate.
  • Congress has granted the sole authority to the newly established Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and previously granted authority to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for regulating the security of aviation and the entire transportation industry. Because this proposed New York legislation is for the purpose of security as a condition for receiving a pilot certificate, which is a federal license, this legislation clearly exceeds the currently established laws of Congress, the TSA, and the FAA.
  • The federal government is currently taking specific action to assure the safety and security of general aviation and the flight training industry, including restrictions enacted by the U.S. Congress on flight training of foreign nationals and the FAA's recommendations for security actions at flight schools.
  • Potential flight students, even those who do not have criminal background, will be deterred from completing the paperwork necessary to pursue flight training. Oftentimes a flight student will take many initial flight lessons to "overcome the fear of flying" before really getting serious about learning to fly.
  • This bill could possibly deny individuals the ability to receive flight training in New York. However, the state does not have the authority to prevent an individual from taking their business out of state in order to learn to fly. This will put a substantial financial strain on flight schools in your state and does nothing to increase security.

The intent of this New York legislation should not be to deny an individual the ability to pursue flight training based on crimes with no evidence of criminal intent or inclination to commit acts of terrorism with an aircraft. AOPA and our members request that these bills be withdrawn. This issue of background checks for flight students is not within the statutory ability of the state to regulate.

Sincerely,

Andrew V. Cebula
Senior Vice President
Government and Technical Affairs

Cc: All members, Senate Committee on Rules
President of the Senate, Lt. Governor Mary O. Donohue
Chairman, Assembly Committee on Rules
Arlene Feldman, FAA Eastern Region Administrator

June 28, 2002

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