Agency Denies Claimed Gaps In Screening Process
A New York senator says the
Transportation Security Administration isn't doing enough to ensure
foreign students training at US flight schools are properly vetted
and cleared -- an assertion TSA vehemently denies.
Senator Chuck Schumer (right) made his allegations Sunday,
reports Newsday. The bombastic senator -- a all-too-familiar name
to general aviation pilots -- said the TSA's failure to conduct
background checks on foreign students "is 9/11, or at least the
failure that led up to 9/11, all over again."
In addition to calling for increased airspace restrictions for
small aircraft operating around New York City, Schumer was also one
of the proponents for mandatory criminal background checks for all
flight school students training in the state -- on top of federal
guidelines that already call for such checks for foreign students,
and identity checks for US residents.
As ANN reported, in August
2007 a judge ruled such a law at the state level was
TSA spokesman Jon Allen denies the agency is lax with its
background checks for student pilots from other countries, who wish
to train in the United States.
"Each and every foreign national that applies for flight training
at any FAA-certified school anywhere in the world is checked by TSA
prior to beginning that training," he said.
Allen adds TSA has conducted over 8,000 inspections at flight
schools, and works with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents
to make sure only legal, documented students are training at those
Schumer counters TSA enforcement is inadequate, with several
gaps -- and claims over 8,000 foreign student pilots haven't been
properly checked, but were still able to enroll and earn pilot
"If there was ever a place for TSA to focus its efforts and beef
up security, this one should be a no-brainer," Schumer said. "It is
simply unbelievable that TSA would look the other way on the gaping
security loophole that led directly to the 9/11 attacks. Thousands
upon thousands of people are attending flight schools and becoming
pilots that legally should have never gotten through the front door
without clearing the background check first."
Schumer has sent a letter to FAA Acting Administrator Bobby
Sturgell, and TSA chief Kip Hawley, calling for an audit of the
background check process -- and stiffer fines for schools that
knowingly attempt to circumvent the process. He also wants
background checks on all flight-school applicants.