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. One of those flight schools is located at Ramona Airport.
Seven are at El Cajon's 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.
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 contributed to this report