U.S. State Department officials just don't understand flight training. And because they don't, they're writing regulations that could put nine flight schools out of business. AOPA is trying to stop that.
The nine flight schools specialize in training foreign students. The State Department wants to change the rules for the Exchange Visitor Program and J-1 visas, and those changes would make it next to impossible for foreign students to complete training that would allow them to get flying jobs in their own countries.
"The State Department blatantly disregarded the devastating economic consequences to flight schools and improperly certified that the proposal would not have a significant impact," said Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. "They didn't even talk to the schools involved."
AOPA filed an objection to the proposed changes, pointing out that unlike other foreign students, flight students have to pass security checks by the Transportation Security Administration. While there have been abuses of the Exchange Visitor Program, AOPA pointed out that none of the problems cited in government reports were related to flight training programs. And because foreign flight students are subjected to so many security checks, the "Department of State's security concerns...are unfounded and lack merit."
The State Department demonstrated its lack of knowledge about flight training by proposing to require that flight students have three years of work experience as pilots.
"That would defeat the purpose of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program," AOPA said in its filing. "If foreign nationals already had three years of pilot experience, they would not need to come to the United States for flight training because they would more than likely already have pilot jobs in their home countries."
June 8, 2006