F-6 Statement of Oaw to Asac 18sep12

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  1 General Aviation Airports Pose a Threat to National Security  Nearly eleven years have elapsed since thatfateful September day when Mohammed Atta commandeered American Airlines Flight 11 and crashed it into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. 1 A few minutes later fellow terrorist Marwan al Shehhi steered United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower. 2 Both Atta and Shehhi obtained pilot's licenses and received large jet flight simulator instruction at Huffman Aviation in Venice Florida.They also trained at Jones Aviation in Sarasota, Florida. 3 Hani Hanjour,who piloted American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, was rejected from a flight schoolinhis home country before receiving pilot trainingin the U.S. After being turnedaway by theflight school in Saudi Arabiahe was accepted at Arizona Aviation. From there he went on to obtain both aprivate and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued commercial  pilot certification. Hanjourthen returned to Saudi Arabia where he was denied admission to a civil aviation school. Upon returning to the U.S. Hanjour trained on a Boeing 737 simulator at the Pan Am International Flight Academy in Mesa, Arizona. 4 He also trained and practiced at Air Fleet Training Systems in Teterboro, New Jersey,and Caldwell Flight Academy in Fairfield, New Jersey. 5 United Airlines Flight 93,which crashed short of its presumed Washington DC target,came down in a field in Pennsylvania. This aircraft was piloted by Ziad Jarrah 6 who received his  private pilot training at the Florida Flight Training Center in Venice, Florida. 7 In addition he trained at the Hortman Aviation, 8 a training school which serves the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware region. 9 Within the space of seventy-seven minutes,terrorists transformed four commercial aircraft into weapons of mass destruction. More than 2,600 people died at the World Trade Center; 125 diedat the Pentagon; 256 died on the four planes. The death toll surpassed that at Pearl Harbor. 10 Though theterrorist pilots andco-conspirators trained at U.S. general aviation flight schoolsand all were from foreign countries, there continue to be serious failings in the U.S. security program for monitoring general aviation aircraft and airports,especially in regards to the training of foreign pilots. Since 9/11, commercial airline passengers are subjected to heightened security checks every time they board an aircraft. By contrast general aviation pilots and passengers,including foreign flight training students,are spared this inconvenience even though U.S. government threat assessments have discussed plans by terrorist organizations to use general aviation aircraft to conduct attacks against U.S. targets. 11 U.S. Government Accounting Office Report on General Aviation Security-Key Points The Transportation Security Administration(TSA)was established in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. It is charged with the task of ensuring national and aviation security in this country. Only scheduled commercial airline operationsare required to abide by the TSA's full airport screening program. General aviation aircraft are not. According to the TSA, General Aviation (GA)...accounts for some 77 percent of all flights in the United States. It encompasses a wide range of activities, from pilot training to flying for business and personal reasons, delivery of emergency medical services, and sightseeing. Operations range from short-distance flights in single-engine light aircraft to long-distance international flights in corporate-owned wide-bodies, and from emergency aero-medical helicopter operations to airships seen at open-air sporting  2events. The sole characteristic that General Aviation operations have in common is that flights are not routinely scheduled; they are on-demand. 12 Unfortunately the TSA is extraordinarily lax in addressing the significant dangers posed by general aviation aircraft. In fact, the TSA has neither developed nor implemented anyfederally mandated security measures for aircraftwhich weigh less than 12,500 pounds. 13 In July of 2012 the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released areport identifying some of the weaknesses found in the remarkably few general aviation security requirements that do exist. The GAO report, titled “General Aviation Security: Weaknesses Exist in TSA's Process for Ensuring Foreign Flight Students Do Not Pose a Security Threat,” 14 was described as a public version of a document released in June of 2012,parts of which were deemed too sensitive for  public disclosure: …this report omits sensitive information regarding potential vulnerabilities we identified related to TSA's vetting process for foreign nationals seeking flight training, and associated recommendations we made. In addition, we have omitted sensitive background information on the potential damage that could be caused by different types of general aviation aircraft crashing into buildings. 15 Key points raisedin the report are bulleted below.  Serious Flawsin TSA Program for Monitoring Students Pilots In recognition that terrorists responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks learned to fly at U.S. flight schools, the Alien Flight Student Program (AFSP) was put in place to help determine whether foreign students enrolling at flight schools pose a security threat. 16 Unfortunately, the TSA has not ensured that all the foreign nationals seeking flight training in the United States have been vetted through AFSP prior to beginning thistraining or established controls to help verify the identity of individuals seeking flight training who claim U.S. citizenship. 17 The report found that, TSA's analysis indicated that some of the 25,599 foreign nationals in the FAA airmen registry were not in the TSA AFSP database, indicating that these individuals had not applied for the AFSP or been vetted by TSA before taking flight training and receiving an FAA airmen certificate…an additional number…had not been successfully vetted…or received permission from TSA to begin flight training. 18 Shockingly, since the vetting does not occur until after the foreign national may startflight training, even under the current system, …foreign nationals with the intent to do harm, such as three of the pilots and leaders of the September 11 terrorist attacks, could have already obtained the training needed to operate an aircraft before they received any type of vetting. 19 Moreover, TSA's Program Manager for AFSP could not explain with certainty why some of the foreign nationals applying for FAA airman certificates may not have been vetted through TSA's security threat assessment process. 20  Foreign Pilots May Be in the Country Illegally According to the report, the AFSP is not designed to determine whether a foreign flight student entered the country legally; thus a foreign national can be approved for training through AFSP after entering the country illegally. 21 In fact, …according to TSA,  prospective flight students may apply for AFSP before entering the United States, rendering moot the question of whether the foreign national had entered the country legally or overstayed. 22  3The reportfurther noted instances of overstays which occurwhen individuals exceed their authorized period of admission and remain in the country illegally. Three of the six September 2001 hijackers werein violation of their temporary visa agreements. The TSA admits that the security threat assessment is not designed to determine if flight studentsare in the country legally. TSA officials acknowledged that it is possible for a foreign national to  be approved by TSA through AFSP and to complete flight training after entering the country illegally or overstaying his or her allotted time to be in the country legally. 23  No TSA Security Program for Aircraft Weighing Less Than 12,500 Pounds The TSAhas no mandatorysecurity requirements for aircraft that weigh less than 12,500  pounds. 24 This means that there are no federal standards in place for screening foreign and domestic students, pilots and passengers prior to boarding general aviation aircraftthat fall within this weight class.  Some Aircraft Weighing More Than 12,500 Pounds ExemptFrom TSA  Not all aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds are required to abide by TSA security measures -an estimated 9,900 privately owned aircraft weighing greater than 12,500, some of which rival commercial aircraft in size, are exempt from TSA security requirements.Aviation industry associations claimthat requiring security measures for these aircraft would impose substantial logistical and cost burdens on the aviation industry. 25 Thus, once again, loopholes designed to protect the financial interests of the far less than one percent of the population that can afford to own a private jet, continues to take precedence over national security, even though the report clearly statedthat, Analysis by the Homeland Security Institute indicates that some of these larger aircraft may be able to cause significant damage in terms of fatalities and economic costs, particularly general aviation aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 71,000 pounds.According to industry data, there are over 800general aviation aircraft weighing over 71,000 pounds. 26 The GAO report revealedthat TSA mandated security standards pertain primarily toscheduled public and private charter aircraftwith 61or more seatsor to some chartered aircraft that weighover 100,309.3 pounds. 27 Thus there are no mandated security measures whatsoever for the vast majority of aircraft and airports in the U.S.  2010Investigationof Illegal Boston Flight School A 2010 Immigrations and U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) investigation of a Boston area flight school exposed the consequences of the TSA's lack of securitymeasures at general aviation airports. In this case, the then 26 year old Thiago DeJesus, a Brazilian immigrant who ownedTJ Inc.,a private flight training school, 28 was in the country illegally.  Nonetheless, he held two Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airman certificates, one as anAirline Transport Pilotand one asaFlight Instructor. Though he was registered with the TSA as a flight training provider under AFSP, …he had never received a TSA security threat assessment or been approved by TSA to obtain flight training. 29 The ICE investigation further revealed that of the 25 foreign nationals approved by the TSA to receive training at this school, eight had entered the country illegally. Of this number, one had been approved for flight training at two other U.S. schools as well. Three of the eight obtained FAA airman certificates…and one held an FAA commercial pilot certificate. 30  4Another foreign national who was in the country illegally received flight training through an airline. 31 Seventeen of the 25 TSA approved foreign nationals were in 'overstay' status, meaning they hadoverstayedtheir authorized period of admission into the United States. Among this group, four managed to obtain FAA certification, one as a commercial pilot and three as  private pilots. Sixteen of the seventeen were in overstay status at the time they received AFSP approval to begin training. 32 All were Brazilian nationals who were training in small single-engine aircraft. 33 Public Monies SubsidizingPilot Training for Foreign Nationals According to the 9/11 Commission Report,oneof the terrorists had researched the possibility of obtaining flight training in Europe but chose the U.S.on a recommendation from a flight school director who informed him that flight schools in the US were less expensive and required shorter training periods. 34 A major reason whypilottraining in the U.S. is so affordable is because the American public has  been coerced into subsidizinggeneral aviation airport infrastructure,including runways and taxiways, air traffic control towers, FAAstaffing, and an array of other costs,which allows private flight training companies who actively recruit andengage in training foreign nationals to realizeheftyprofits.An example of this institutionalized follyis the Port of Portland owned and operated Hillsboro Airport(HIO), a facility that logs around a quarter million operations annually, over 200,000 of which are related to flight training. One of the key tenantsat HIO isHillsboro Aviation (HA), a for-profit companythat lays claim to beingone of the largest combined helicopter and airplane flight training schools in the country. HA maintains that it has trained pilots from over 75 countries.Among their accomplishments, HA lists the decision by the following organizations to choose their flight school for training: theAirline Pilot Association of Taiwan, the Japan Aviation Academy, Shanghai Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Air China, and Luftfartsskolen School of Aviation in Norway. 35  The Port of Portland, the State of Oregon, and the FAA have dedicated millions of dollars in public resources to cover the cost of new runways, taxiways, and related infrastructureintended in large partto accommodate HA business interests.According to their website,HA logs 55,000 flight hours annually, 36 a figure that translates into six aircraft in the air simultaneously 24 hours per day, seven days a week, 365 days per year. It is difficult to ascertain exactly how many foreign nationals are training out of HIO due toa refusal on the part of the agencies involvedto meaningfullyrespond torequestsfor information. The owner and operator of the airport, the Port ofPortland, said that they don'ttrack this information. The TSA maintainedthat itwas outside their jurisdiction. Hillsboro Aviation insisted that this information was proprietary thus unavailableto the public.Yet despite the significant security risks, the Port of Portland and the FAA are aggressively advocating for a third runway that will nearly double the capacity of HIO. Port documents state that Future growth in local operations will be driven by training operations at Hillsboro Airport. This will be the function of the businesses on the airport which provide pilot training services. 37 Mary Maxwell, who served asDirector of Aviation for the Port of Portland from 2004-2009 further confirmed the Port's intentions, We're seeing a lot of development at that airport. Next on our plans will be the development of a third runway which is primarily a shorter runway for training aircraft. 38
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