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Thompson moves to close ‘loophole’ in flight school security

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS)

The ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee introduced legislation on July 19 aimed at closing “a glaring security loophole” in TSA’s vetting of flight school applicants.

The move came in response to a study released on July 18 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that said TSA is working to close significant holes in its security and immigration checks of foreign flight school applicants.

According to the GAO study, in 2010 gaps in immigration information allowed 25 illegal aliens to get pilot training at a Boston area flight school that was operated by an illegal alien. In March 2010, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigated a Boston-area flight school after local police stopped the flight school owner for a traffic violation. The police discovered he was in the country illegally, said the study. The report said some flight school applicants overstayed their visas and weren’t vetted before they began classes.

Some of the 9/11 hijackers attended flight school and had overstayed their visas prior to the attacks.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), on July 19, introduced the “Flight School Security Act of 2012” to address what he called “a glaring security loophole” revealed when the study was released ahead of a July 18 hearing on flight security.

Thompson said the study showed that while aliens that seek training in U.S. flight schools are subject to security vetting by the TSA under a program that has been in place for a decade, every other flight student is allowed to receive such training without so much as a simple check against the TSA ‘No Fly List’. 

Thompson, along with Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), and Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA) introduced the “Flight School Security Act of 2012” on July 19.

Under the proposed legislation, TSA would be required to check each person seeking instruction from a flight school in an aircraft or aircraft simulator against the No Fly List and provide the school with information on whether that person has been positively vetted as a non-threat to aviation security.  The vetting would occur before the individual begins training. 

"We cannot allow loopholes exploited by the 9/11 hijackers to be exploited again.  Everyone, including U.S. Citizens, should be vetted against the No Fly List before beginning flight training.  Its commonsense, straightforward policy to close a security gap that inexplicably persists over a decade after 9/11."