New York Pilot Action Alert
The issue: Assembly Bill 11863
The New York State Assembly quickly passed a bill (A.B.11863) that would require a criminal history record background check for individuals seeking aviation flight training. The New York legislature, led by the perception that this bill will better screen applicants for flight instruction and increase security, has failed to consider that the requirements for receiving flight instruction are set by the Federal Aviation Administration. In addition, foreign nationals are now under extensive scrutiny by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). This bill is to be considered by the Senate Rules Committee next week.
Why it's important
This legislation would subject all pilots, including current pilots receiving advanced ratings or proficiency training at any New York aeronautical facility, flight school, or institute of higher learning, to criminal background checks. A similar law recently was passed in Michigan, the only state that has instituted criminal background checks for flight students. AOPA has been hearing the following complaints from Michigan members:
- The police departments are not adequately able to handle, nor do they understand, the requirement to fingerprint pilots. Pilots and flight instructors have to go to the police station with the new law in hand to inform law enforcement of this requirement.
- Pilots are waiting in line at the police station while criminals get booked, processed, and fingerprinted.
- Pilots have also been faced with law enforcement offices only open on certain days for limited times, typically during the workday, for processing fingerprints.
- New student pilots and existing pilots seeking to earn advanced ratings are reluctant to begin flight training because of the new requirement.
- Many pilots are being told the backlog to process the paperwork is already four months long.
- Pilots training at flight schools on the border of the state are expressing concern their flight school will go out of business, as many individuals are taking their flight training business out of state.
What you should do
Pilots, aircraft owners, and flight training organizations are urged to contact their elected state senator and ask them to vote in opposition to Assembly Bill 11863. Letters and faxes are most effective, but e-mail and phone contacts are useful too. In your correspondence, you should make the following points:
- 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 22,000 pilots and flight training students in New York.
- The FAA sets the requirements for flight training in Federal Aviation Regulation parts 61 and 141. An individual state is unable to set the requirements for an individual to receive flight training.
- Congress has granted the sole authority for regulating the security of the aviation and the entire transportation industry to the newly established Transportation Security Administration (TSA). A pilot license is a federal license. This legislation clearly exceeds the currently established laws of Congress, the TSA, and the FAA.
- Assembly Bill 11863 portrays pilots as criminals and perceives them to be a greater risk to security. This is simply not true.
- Assembly Bill 11863 will deter citizens from beginning flight training. Passage of this legislation will deter new pilots, eventually decreasing the pilot population and having a profoundly negative impact on the entire aviation industry.
- Licensed pilots will be prohibited from complying with federal requirements for a pilot to receive flight training toward a biennial flight review or instrument proficiency check, without first having to compete a criminal background check. In addition, this will deter pilots from earning advanced ratings.
Who to contact
- Write, call, or fax your state senator. The Web site provides you with information that allows you to find your state representative.
- Contact the Senate Committee on Rules Chairman Joseph L. Bruno at [email protected] or call him at 518/455-3191.
- Send a copy to AOPA. If you mail, fax, or e-mail your views on this issue to your elected officials, please do send a copy to AOPA State Legislative Affairs, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, MD 21701, fax: 301/695-2214 .
June 28, 2002