Background Checks & Flight Schools


Background checks are once again in the news.

Earlier this month, county supervisors in Southern California approved a new ordinance designed to make sure foreign student pilots are undergoing federal background checks.

The federal government has legal authority over aviation in the U.S. Anyone who is not a U.S. citizen is required to undergo a background check before undergoing any flight training.

So why the need for a new ordinance in Southern California? The Government Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report in 2012 that stated there were gaps in the background check system. Those gaps are raising concerns in San Diego County. The area has more than a dozen private flight schools and about 1,200 flight instructors working at county-operated airports.

Shortly after the GAO report came out in 2012, San Diego County supervisors instructed the Public Works Department to work with local groups and draft an ordinance that would require area flight schools and instructors to certify that they were complying with the federal law. The ordinance passed by county supervisors earlier this month would require flight schools that train foreign student pilots to sign a form every year stating they are complying with the federal background check law.

The ordinance must be approved a second time when the board meets later this week. If it is approved, Public Works officials say they will begin enforcing the ordinance when the new fiscal year goes into effect on July 1st.

The San Diego County supervisors are doing more than just passing an ordinance. They say they will increase their efforts to lobby federal officials to close those gaps outlined in the 2012 GAO report. They also say they will increase communications with flight schools and flight instructors to make sure everyone is aware of the federal background check law. They also plan to tell other California counties about the new ordinance.