The Honorable James E. McGreevey
The State of New Jersey
Office of the Governor
125 W. State St.
Trenton, NJ 48909
Re: Legislation requiring criminal background checks on flight students, N.J. A.B.1649, N.J. S.B.432, and N.J. S.B.1438
Dear Governor McGreevey:
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is a membership association consisting of over 380,000 pilots and aircraft owners nationwide, including 9,300 in New Jersey. On their behalf we urge your opposition to legislation pending before the New Jersey 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 an unnecessary restriction and encumbrance on those who seek to learn to fly—an activity regulated and controlled by the federal government.
The New Jersey legislation as written will create an administrative burden on the commissioner of Transportation, who must provide written consent for a student pilot. In 2001, there were more than 1,800 new student pilots and more than 11,400 active pilots in New Jersey alone receiving flight training for new certificates or to maintain proficiency. Administratively, this bill will be very costly. In addition, this bill could possibly deny individuals the ability to receive flight training in New Jersey, forcing them to take their business out of state, putting a severe financial burden on New Jersey flight schools.
As you may know, the federal government is currently taking specific action to assure the safety and security of general aviation and the flight training industry. Those individuals responsible for the September 11th terrorist attacks were in the United States legally on paperwork issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). To address national concerns, the U.S. Congress included restrictions on flight training of foreign nationals in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act law signed by President Bush in November. This law created a newly dedicated federal agency, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), whose mission it is to protect the nation's transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. In addition, the INS has taken a much more aggressive role in working with TSA in reviewing applications for flight training from non-U.S. citizens.
In January, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), working with the industry, has issued a number of actions addressing security for non-airline operations. The FAA's suggestions covered flight schools positively identifying a student or renter pilot before allowing access to an aircraft, controlling aircraft ignition keys so the student can't start the aircraft until the instructor is ready, placing signs at airports warning against tampering with or unauthorized use of aircraft, and providing phone numbers for reporting suspicious activity.
In addition, in February, AOPA filed a petition for rulemaking for a change to the federal aviation regulations to require pilots to carry valid photo identification (such as a driver's license) in addition to their pilot and medical certificates. In April, AOPA received a letter from the FAA administrator to inform us that the FAA has begun to draft a regulatory document addressing the specifics of that proposal. The congressional House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also has endorsed AOPA's petition, stating it is something that can be implemented quickly and recommended prompt action by the FAA.
AOPA, on behalf of our members, request that should these bills reach you for consideration, you veto them.
|cc:||New Jersey Assembly Speaker The Honorable Albio Sires |
Co-President of the Senate The Honorable Richard Codey
Co-President of the Senate The Honorable John O. Bennett
AOPA Eastern Regional Representative John Luce
May 22, 2002