WASHINGTON, July 19 (UPI) -- A congressional hearing revealed U.S. citizens banned from flying can nonetheless enroll at any one of the nation's 935 accredited flight schools.
More than 550 U.S. citizens currently on the no-fly list are able to pursue pilot training without impediment, an audit found. Only upon completion of training, during the application for a pilot's license, are applicants screened against U.S. terrorism databases, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"I'm shocked to hear that someone on the no-fly list can be approved for flight lessons," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, in Wednesday's hearing. "It is mind-blowing."
After al-Qaida attackers were found to have enrolled in flight schools in Florida, Arizona and Minnesota prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, security checks were implemented for non-U.S. citizens enrolling in flight schools. Those checks were never extended to U.S. citizens.
Roughly 30 percent of those enrolled in U.S. flight schools are foreign nationals. The audit also found many foreign nationals had completed training without a full background check.
Investigators also discovered some 30 people enrolled in U.S. flight schools who are in the country illegally.