Editor's note: This letter to the editor is related to a recent decision by San Diego County supervisors to tighten security at flight schools that service foreign nationals.
To the editor:
In Egypt they're burning the American flag and in East County we are training their pilots to fly.
I am a member of Advocates For Safe Airport Policies (ASAP), a coalition of over 300 residents from El Cajon, Lakeside and Santee. There are over 11 flight schools operating in San Diego County. Seven of them operate out of Gillespie Field, three of which primarily train foreign nationals. Some of these foreign students could pose a national security threat.
At Gillespie Field, these students can't be tracked on radar until they reach 1600 to 1800 feet. They fly at times when the control tower is closed and unmanned.
They are very close to large U.S. military installations; Miramar Marine Air Station and North Island Naval Air Station are just two of them. Aircraft carriers are moored in San Diego Bay most of the time. Small aircraft can do a lot of destruction to these facilities. The Kamikazes of World War II were quite small and did an immense amount of damage.
The proximity of these flight schools to key defense installations is troubling. They should not be allowed to operate within 100 miles of any of them. This way aircraft could easily be located if they strayed out of their flight training area in plenty of time to intercept before they could be a threat.
All the security vetting that should take place before these people get in the cockpit can never give a 100 percent guarantee that they can be trusted. Moving them well away from prime military targets is the thing to do.
As Rep. Duncan Hunter stated at a recent meeting with ASAP: "Pilots from non-NATO countries should NOT be trained at Gillespie."
-Ed Blitz, member of the Advocates For Safe Airport Policies steering committee