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TSA to modify alien-flight-student programTSA to modify alien-flight-student program

The Transportation Security Administration is soliciting recommendations from the public on ways to improve a program established in 2004 to screen foreign applicants for flight training in the United States and require that flight school workers undergo security-awareness training.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

In the years since the Alien Flight Student Program began, AOPA has worked with security officials to streamline the security-threat assessment process and other elements of the TSA regulation.

“AOPA believes the TSA’s new request for comments is a positive step toward a comprehensive program review,” said Nobuyo Sakata, AOPA director of aviation security.

In a notice filed May 18, the TSA said it was soliciting comments by June 18 as part of an overall review of the security agency’s programs. It said the request was a response to flight training industry recommendations about ways to modify the rule’s reporting and recordkeeping provisions—for example by allowing electronic recordkeeping to document compliance in lieu of paper records.

The TSA’s request for comments focused on several program elements including the costs and benefits of requiring flight training providers to undergo a security threat assessment (STA)—a process now required only for foreign flight students.

The agency also sought input on “the impact of modifying STA requirements for alien flight training candidates from an event-based requirement to a time-based requirement,” a change AOPA supports.

“Currently, TSA requires individuals to be vetted before each training event. This requires payment of fees for each training event to complete the STA process. With the expansion of recurrent vetting programs, it may be possible to allow for a time-based STA requirement (such as once every three years) rather than an STA for each training event,” it said.

The agency also intends to clarify “appropriate compliance requirements for parties involved in leases of aircraft, aircraft simulators, and other flight training equipment”; quantify the implications of “refining the scope of STAs for candidates who train with FAA-certified flight instructors operating outside the United States”; and identify data sources for numbers or percentages of flight schools that exclusively train U.S. citizens. “This information can be used to streamline program implementation and validate cost estimates for the program,” it said.

In recent years, the TSA said, “members of the aviation industry, the public, and Federal oversight organizations have identified areas where the program could be improved,” including recommendations from the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, on which AOPA served as a member of the panel’s general aviation subcommittee.

Comments may be submitted online by June 18. Please cite Docket No. TSA–2004–19147.

Please share your comments with AOPA.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Security, Pilot Training and Certification

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