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NAFI: TSA Wants Flight School Workers to be Security Trained

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) aviation security branch officials recently assured Rusty Sachs, Executive Director of the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) that it’s not looking to pull anyone’s instructors ticket. But it does insist that people who deal personally with flight students—that means all flight school employees and individual flight instructors—complete a security awareness training program. Sachs visited TSA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on January 26.

TSA announced the mandatory current and recurrent training in September last year. Countless NAFI members, however, voiced complaints when they experienced difficulty obtaining the required online training materials through the TSA website. The large file size prevented many members, especially those without broadband Internet connections, from conducting the training online. There was also a problem in printing completion certificates, which NAFI has already addressed with its members.

TSA assured Sachs that its intention is to see that instructors receive the proper security awareness training, not to suspend or revoke certificates. TSA also agreed to work with NAFI in distributing training materials on a CD-ROM, which members will soon be able to obtain through NAFI.

“We are pleased that the TSA have assured us that their intention is to enhance the awareness of flight instructors rather than deprive them of their livelihoods,” Sachs said. “We are even more heartened that NAFI will be able to furnish its members materials that will make compliance with the TSA easier in the future.”

NAFI Working to Change Alien Flight Student Training Rules

During his visit to TSA headquarters, Sachs also argued against TSA’s rule regarding fingerprint of alien pilots.

Prior to obtaining flight training in the United States, alien flight students must receive TSA approval to conduct the training. Flight schools must also receive approval to provide that training. The approval process for alien candidates requires a complete set of fingerprints be taken in the United States then submitted to TSA. This creates an obvious hardship on some alien individuals as it increases the cost and time involved in obtaining the approval to begin U.S. flight instruction, the highest quality flight-training in the world.

On behalf of NAFI members, Sachs urged TSA officials to modify this requirement to permit fingerprinting outside the U.S. He argued that the burden of additional living expenses in addition to the cost of flight training might force some to look elsewhere for flight training, thus shutting U.S. firms out of an estimated $1 billion market.

“Over the next decade, China alone looks to train between 500 and 1,000 new pilots every year,” Sachs said. “NAFI members and the entire industry could be losing out on a huge piece of that business.”

TSA is in the process of negotiating with a private firm that will be authorized to take fingerprints outside the United States. TSA also looks forward to cooperating to lessen the burden on law-abiding aliens who seek US flight training.