It makes no sense for the federal government to ban a U.S. citizen from taking a commercial airline flight because of terrorism fears but allow that same person to learn how to fly a commercial plane.
Yet that has been the case, even after the 9/11 attacks. Officials should move to close any loopholes as quickly as possibly.
A House subcommittee hearing on Homeland Security Department programs last week showed gaps remain in security when it comes to flight school training.
Foreigners attending flight schools are supposed to be subject to background checks and screening against terrorism watch lists.
Yet the Government Accountability Office said it found that a Transportation Security Administration program does not automatically check if students seeking flight training are in the country legally, The Associated Press reports.
And in 2010, an investigation into a Boston-area flight school revealed that eight students approved by the TSA were in the country illegally, as was the flight school owner, and 17 had overstayed their visas, the AP reported.
In addition a TSA official told members of Congress that the roughly 500 U.S. citizens on the no-fly list wouldn't be automatically be prohibited from receiving commercial pilot training because their names would not be checked against the list.
That's crazy. They can't take a commercial flight but they can learn to fly a jet?
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said he was stunned and angry after learning about the different standards for flight school admissions.
"Everyone should be concerned," he told reporters.
A Transportation Security Administration official said once trainees receive flight certificates they are screened against criminal and terrorist databases on a regular basis.
But what if a would-be terrorist just gets enough pilot training to gain rudimentary knowledge and then drops out? That training still could pose a danger to the public if the person manages to get in control of a plane.
The 9/11 hijackers proved that to be true.
We never can be 100 percent safe, but the flaws that have been highlighted show more needs to be done to ensure people who are in the country illegally or who are known to be a threat aren't learning to be commercial pilots.