The Senate Commerce Committee yesterday passed an amendment to the Aviation Security Improvement Act that would require background checks for all foreign flight school candidates regardless of the weight class of aircraft they wish to learn to fly. AOPA has been actively working to keep U.S. citizens out of the bill, sponsored by Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
"We have made it clear to Sen. Nelson that we are strongly opposed to extending the background check requirements to U.S. citizens," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Congress must remember that it was a breakdown in intelligence and immigration procedures that led to the heinous terrorist action, not a failure by the flight training industry."
Currently, the law requires that the Department of Justice approve any foreign student seeking flight training in aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds. Senator Nelson's amendment would extend that check to all foreign students. It also would change the existing law to allow foreign flight school students to begin ground training while the background check is under way. It would allow exemptions for foreign pilots who have earned an FAA type rating or are legally able to fly in and around the United States in planes weighing over 12,500 pounds.