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Security Tightening at Gillespie Field Flight Schools That Service Foreign Nationals

Seven flight schools are at Gillespie Field, three of which primarily serve international would-be pilots.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously backed federal legislation to tighten scrutiny on foreign nationals who attempt to receive flight training in the United States at their meeting on Tuesday.

The supervisors also ordered staff to create a local ordinance to require 11 flight schools that operate at San Diego County-run airports to comply with vetting and screening programs for foreign students. Seven are at Gillespie Field, three of which primarily serve international would-be pilots, said Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who brought the proposal to the board.

"It's my understanding that the majority of students at these three flight schools are foreign nationals," Jacob said. "Some of these flight students could pose a national security threat and might still be allowed to receive flight training in the United States."

Three more schools at county-run airfields are at McClellan-Palomar Airport and one is at Ramona Airport.

Jacob said federal agencies have not done enough to prevent a reoccurrence of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. She cited a July report from the General Accounting Office that said foreign nationals who are security risks could use loopholes in order to receive flight training.

"It's unconscionable, it's unbelievable, that here we are, 11 years after the tragedy of 9/11, and the federal agencies responsible for keeping us safe have not responded to close the information gaps in the screening process," Jacob said.

HR 6159 would require all foreign nationals who apply to flight schools be checked against a terrorist watch list. The Flight School Security Act of 2012 has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Transportation.

Jacob said the operators of the flight schools in San Diego County were not to blame for the problem.

-City News Service

Jake Mahamood September 12, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Its about time, the area looks like an Al-Kada training camp.
Mary September 12, 2012 at 05:11 PM
To me this is a big deal for Santee residents. Do we need to worry that the constant buzzing overhead might be training the next terrorists? H.R. 6159: To amend title 49, United States Code, to require that individuals seeking training in the operation of certain aircraft be CHECKED AGAINST THE TERRORIST WATCHLIST TO ENSURE THAT SUCH INDIVIDUALS ARE NON-THREATS TO AVIATION. Wonder why HR6159 hasn’t even moved out of Committee? Could it be that it was introduced by a Democratic Congressman and has 18 Democratic co-sponsors. The Republican Committee Chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security determines whether a bill will move past the committee stage.
PwmCwzy September 12, 2012 at 08:45 PM
This legislation should be HIGH PRIORITY. Why aren't the Republicans worried about our safety and moving on it?
Kathryn Bell September 16, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Chineese training camp!!! I live by the Gillespie Field and it is non stop! This is very HIGH PRIORITY for our country.
ED Blitz September 17, 2012 at 03:07 PM
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 SD Cty. 7 operate out of Gillespie Field, 3 primarily train foreign nationals. Some of these 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. Aircraft carriers are moored in San Diego Bay most of the time. Small aircraft can do a lot of destruction to these facilities. 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 path. All the security vetting that should take place before these people get in the cockpit can never give a 100% 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, ASAP steering committee

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