In the face of an impending deadline, AOPA has formally requested that the Transportation Security Administration suspend the October 20 compliance date for parts of its new alien flight-training rule that apply to flight training in smaller general aviation aircraft.
"TSA has set an impossible deadline for a rule that directly affects more than 650,000 U.S.-certificated pilots, 85,000 resident aliens with U.S. pilot certificates, 93,700 flight students, 88,700 flight instructors, and some 3,400 flight schools," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "We have serious concerns with the rule, and the affected aviation community must be given time to understand it and respond to the TSA, and the agency needs time to make changes to the rule."
As currently written, the rule requires every student and pilot to prove his or her citizenship status prior to taking any kind of flight training, including flight reviews. Flight instructors are required to keep copies of pilots' personal information (which could include social security cards, birth certificates, or passports) for five years.
"Our members are incensed about the privacy aspects of this rule," said Boyer. "Many have told us that requiring flight instructors to maintain permanent files filled with personal pilot information is not only inappropriate, it would have a chilling effect on people seeking flight training. They believe allowing TSA to forage around in those files to see who has sought flight training goes beyond due process and constitutional guarantees of privacy."
TSA published its interim final rule "Flight Training for Aliens and Other Designated Individuals" September 20 without the usual public review and comment (see " AOPA raises concerns over TSA alien flight training rule"). TSA said it was responding to a congressional mandate to check for terrorists among foreign nationals applying for flight training in the United States. TSA also said that the deadline imposed by Congress to institute such a check for students training in aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds meant the agency had to issue the rule without the normal public review process.
"TSA went far beyond what Congress intended in Section 612 of 'Vision 100,' the FAA reauthorization act, as it applies to training in smaller aircraft," said Boyer. "And they missed their deadline by seven months. If they can push their deadline that far, they can certainly take additional time to consult with the industry and get a rule that is sound from a regulatory standpoint, meets congressional intent, and protects the rights of all pilots living in the United States."
September 28, 2004