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NAFI’s Aviation Education Advisory Board review of FAA Flight Training Security Recommendations

I. Recommendations that are fully supported by NAFI include:

  1. Consider having any student pilot check in with a specific employee—i.e., dispatcher, aircraft scheduler, a flight instructor, or some other “management” official—before being allowed access to parked aircraft; or have the student sign or initial a form and not receive keys until an instructor or other “management official” also signs or initials.
  2. Establish positive identification of any student pilot before every flight lesson.
  3. If the student pilot is not yet a legal adult at the time of enrollment, the enrollment application, if applicable, should be co-signed by a parent or legal guardian.

(NAFI would further recommend that the flight school obtain from the parent signing the enrollment application an affidavit stating that the parent is a/the custodial parent of the minor)

  1. To prevent unauthorized use of aircraft, take steps appropriate to the specific type of aircraft to secure it when it is unattended.
  2. Place a prominent sign near areas of public access warning against tampering with or unauthorized use of aircraft; clearly post emergency telephone numbers (police, fire, FBI) so that people may report suspicious activity. (Emphasize that people other than employees should not take action on suspicious activity but should report it to the appropriate law enforcement authority.)
  3. Train employees as well as pilots who regularly use the aircraft to be on the lookout for suspicious activity, e.g., transient aircraft with unusual or unauthorized modifications; persons loitering for extended periods in the vicinity of parked aircraft or in pilot lounges; pilots who appear to be under the control of another person; persons wishing to rent aircraft without presenting proper credentials or identification; persons who present apparently valid credentials but who do not display a corresponding level of aviation knowledge; any pilot who makes threats or statements inconsistent with normal uses or aircraft; or events or circumstances that do not fit the pattern of lawful, normal activity at an airport.

II. Recommendations that are supported by NAFI (with reservation or comment) include:

  1. Limit student pilot access to aircraft keys until the student pilot has reached a specific point in the training curriculum, i.e., successful completion of the pre-solo written test.

NAFI can support this provision so long as the school has the flexibility to determine the point in time that this may occur. See item III. Number 1, below for further discussion of the training requirements associated with pre-flight inspection and decision-making training.

  1. Use a different ignition key from the door lock key. The instructor would provide the ignition key when he or she arrives at the aircraft.

NAFI points out that there are some limitations in how this would actually be accomplished in installation and lock availability may limit the ability for different keying. In addition, some training aircraft do not have ignition locks.

  1. Consider having an instructor or other school or FBO employee open the aircraft door and retain possession of the key during the student pilot’s preflight inspection.

For a small flight school with aircraft parked nearby, this may be quite feasible and readily accomplished. At larger operations, from a very practical standpoint, it would be difficult if not impossible to accomplish this within the economic confines of the flight training business. Even a modest sized operation will have aircraft spread over several acres of ramp with as many as several dozen departures occurring simultaneously. The staffing required for this would be prohibitive.

III. Recommendations that are not supported by NAFI (with reasons stated) include:

Before solo, keep student pilots under the supervision of a flight instructor at all times, regardless of the student’s age.

NAFI points out that the primary safety concern in the pre-flight inspection training is the creation of safe pilots that are able to properly inspect the aircraft and make unaided decisions regarding airworthiness of the aircraft. This issue has received much attention of FAA in recent years in both primary training and Flight Instructor training PTS. An important aspect of this training is “weaning” the student from the continual oversight of the flight instructor so that s/he develops the independent decision making ability required of a competent, safe pilot. NAFI feels strongly that keeping student pilots under the continuous supervision of his or her flight instructor would have a serious, deleterious effect on flight training programs and aviation safety.

Even though a medical certificate is not required until the student pilot is ready to solo, consider establishing a school/FBO policy that the student pilot obtains the medical certificate before he or she begins flight lessons. (A medical certificate will be denied if the individual has a disqualifying mental condition.) Introductory flights could be exempt from this policy.

NAFI is deeply concerned that this requirement would damage or destroy a number of well-established programs that utilize flight training as a component of other, larger, programs that have significant social value to our society. For example, scouting, exploring and Civil Air Patrol all have programs that involve flight training for minors that are below the minimum age to be issued a medical certificate. These types of programs are significant programs developing the aviation leaders of tomorrow. In addition, a number of middle school and high school programs around the country have programs for at risk and disadvantaged youth that use flight training as the incentive for marginal students to spend time and do well in math, physics and other school work. This is an issue that must be balanced against the extremely limited benefits of requiring a medical certificate prior to receiving flight training.

The NAFI Aviation Education Advisory Group was formed by NAFI after September 11, 2001 to study, analyze and respond to relevant governmental agencies on issues affecting flight training. It is chaired by Phil Poyner, NAFI Board member and 2001 FAA/Industry National Flight Instructor of the year. Master CFI Patricia Knight chairs the Flight Training Security sub-committee.

The objectives of the AEAG are to assist the many governmental agencies involved in setting policy in areas affecting flight training. It seeks to assist these agencies in making practical, usable, and, most important, beneficial policy within our areas of flight education expertise.

More articles -

Jan. 9, 2002 - FAA Releases Security Notice For FBOs and Flight Schools

Jan. 8, 2002 - Considering Security Needs for GA

Jan. 8, 2002 - EAA, NAFI Go Nationwide with Media in Aftermath of Tampa

Jan. 7, 2002 - EAA Addressing Tampa Crash Aftermath

Jan. 6, 2002 - Message to EAA Members and Aviation Enthusiasts Regarding Jan. 5 Incident in Tampa