Dozens of Foreign Pilots Training Illegally at US Flight Schools

Sep 25, 2006 1:09pm

Dozens of foreign student pilots with questionable visas have been able to slip between the cracks and gain entry to American flight schools, federal officials tell ABC News. The FAA says it is conducting an investigation of a number of flight instructors and schools, including one school which was attended by 9-11 hijackers Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi. An internal Homeland Security document obtained by ABC News, says the post 9-11 program to prevent terrorists from entering US flight schools has been marked by "confusion and misinterpretations." THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS Where Were the Air Marshals? None on Disrupted London Flight One Aviation Security Loophole Closed, Many To Go Click Here for More of the Brian Ross Page Under the program, no foreign national can receive flight training in the United States without approval from the Transportation Security Administration. In a July, 2006 memo, the TSA complains the program has been flawed because other agencies, including the Department of State, have provided  "conflicting and ambiguous" information about whether applicants had valid visas for flight training. The result, according to officials involved in the program, is that "dozens" of foreign nationals have been able to receive pilot training and FAA licenses without full background checks. In a handful of other cases, according to officials, foreign nationals have been able to enroll in flight schools and receive pilot training without any TSA approval.    One FAA inspector described the case of an Iranian on a terror watch list who was discovered training at a flight school in the South. "He was training illegally, he had no TSA approval of any kind and we just happened to stumble across him," the FAA inspector told ABC News. The Iranian was removed from flight training, according to the inspector, but could not be deported because he had a valid Canadian passport.       The 9-11 hijackers attended 17 different American flight schools to train as pilots, according to another document obtained by ABC News. The FAA told ABC News it could not comment because of an open investigation on the issue of foreign pilots. The TSA says is revising its vetting process and has begun a series of flight school inspections "to ensure that flight training providers" are aware of the rules. Click Here to Read the Actual TSA Flight Schools Document Click Here to View the Actual Hijacker’s Flight School Map

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