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FAA issues new flight-school safety suggestions

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The suicide flight of 15-year old student pilot Charles Bishop into a Tampa, Florida, skyscraper this past weekend has prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to issue new security recommendations to flight schools and airfields.

The FAA on Wednesday asked airport and flight school operators to consider implementing the 11 measures, including using different keys for plane doors and ignitions; limiting novice pilots' access to keys; requiring medical certificates from new students, rather than waiting until they begin solo flights; and limiting access to unattended aircraft. Although flight school operators will not be penalized if they fail to meet the new security measures, they are expected to follow most of them where practicable.

The suggested guidelines follow an FAA security directive issued in October, in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, asking all public-use airport owners and operators to work with law enforcement agencies on procedures for promptly reporting suspicious people and activities.

In addition, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, signed by President Bush last November, requires flight schools and training centers to advise the attorney general of any foreign applicants for flight training.

The 11 measures recommended by the FAA are:

-- Flight instructors should use a different ignition key from the door lock key. The instructor would provide the ignition key when he or she arrives at the aircraft.

-- Student pilot access to aircraft keys should be limited until the student is in later stages of training, for example, until the successful completion of the pre-solo written test.

-- Before a student pilot is allowed to fly an aircraft solo, he or she should be under the supervision of a flight instructor at all times, regardless of the student's age.

-- Airports should consider requiring student pilots to check in with a designated flight school employee before being allowed to access parked aircraft, or to sign or initial a form, along with a management official, before the being given aircraft keys.

-- Airports should establish positive identification of any student pilot before every flight lesson.

-- If a student pilot is not yet a legal adult at time of enrollment, the enrollment application should be co-signed by a parent or legal guardian. -- Airports should consider requiring medical certificates from student pilots before they begin flight lessons. Currently a medical certificate is required only when the student pilot begins solo flying. (A medical certificate will be denied if the individual has a disqualifying mental condition.)

-- To prevent unauthorized use of aircraft, airports should take extra steps to secure unattended aircraft.

-- Airports should consider having an instructor or other school employee open the aircraft door and retain possession of the key during the student's preflight inspection.

-- Airports should place a prominent sign near areas of public access warning against tampering with or unauthorized use of aircraft. They should clearly post emergency phone numbers, such as police, the FBI, the fire department.

-- Employees should be trained, as well as pilots, to look out for suspicious activity, such as transient aircraft with unusual or unauthorized modifications; loitering; pilots who appear to be under the control of another person; people wanting to rent aircraft without proper identification; people who present credentials but don't show a corresponding level of aviation knowledge; any pilots who make threats or unusual statements; or events or circumstances that do not fit a pattern of lawful, normal activity at an airport.




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