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SD County Considers New Restrictions on Flight Schools Regarding Foreign Students

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors next week will consider new restrictions on flight school where foreigners are taught to fly.

If approved, the ordinance proposed by Supervisor Dianne Jacob on Sept. 11, 2012, would require flight schools and independent instructors using county- run airports to certify that they're following guidelines for screening and monitoring students.

Part of the idea is to increase contacts between county staffers and flight school operators. Violations of the ordinance could result in warnings, citations or schools being denied the use of airports.

The first of 9/11 hijackers to arrive in the United States—Khalid al- Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi—settled in San Diego in January 2000 and took flight lessons at Montgomery Field, and hijacker-pilot Hani Hanjour arrived in December of that year.   

Jacob proposed closer monitoring of flight schools based on a U.S. General Accounting Office report that concluded the federal government did not adequately monitor foreign flight students in this country.

The GAO report found that foreign nationals were applying for flight certificates with the Federal Aviation Administration without being properly vetted, and there was little coordination between the Transportation Security Administration and immigration officials.

A staff report says the proposed ordinance seeks to confirm that flight schools and instructors are following the law, in a way in which the county doesn't undermine federal authority.

Advisory committees at three of the eight affected airfields—the Fallbrook Airpark, Gillespie Field in El Cajon, and McClellan-Palomar Airport—each voted unanimously against Jacob's proposal at meetings in November.

In September 2012, when the proposal was introduced, there were 11 flight schools operating at county-run airports.

If passed next Wednesday, the item would return Feb. 26 for final approval.

—City News Service

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