Have you ever bought something based on packaging or because it looked really cool in the commercial, only to find out it wasn’t as great as it appeared to be (be honest, we’ve all done it!)? The same thing happens with government regulation. On the surface it appears to be the solution to a serious problem but, once implemented, it creates a whole host of other, sometimes worse, problems.
Such is the case with California’s regulation of flight training. It is designed to prevent unscrupulous or inept individuals from opening training facilities, taking students’ money, then never providing the training. Sounds great! After incidents such as Silver State Helicopters and Jet University, everyone believes students need some type of protection. The real problems are found only after you open the package of the California regulations and find that what they will really do is decimate the state’s flight training industry.
In a recent AVweb blog post, Russ Niles reviewed the California regulation of flight training and fell prey to the pretty packaging. Mr. Niles began by extolling the value of journalists to review and inform our industry independently on regulatory matters, gave a very brief overview of the history of students losing money to predatory flight schools, and concluded without discussing even one of the real issues that flight training providers have with the regulations mandated by the California Bureau of Private Post Secondary Education (BPPE). Rather, Mr. Niles determined, “The security the law may provide could help direct students to California schools confident in the knowledge they will get the training they pay for or they’ll get their money back.”
The truth of the matter is that the regulations, and the statute behind them, were developed without any input from the industry whatsoever. The result is a structure that completely misses the diversity in operations and business models that is present in general aviation. Under the current interpretation being used by the BPPE, even individual flight instructors are deemed to be Private Postsecondary Educational Facilities and are covered by the regulation’s many fees and administrative requirements. Since the majority of the problems in the past with predatory flight schools have revolved around the issue of prepayment of tuition and fees, you would think that facilities that do not charge any upfront fees and tuition would be exempted, but they are not. All flight training providers are subject to the regulations.
There are solutions to the problem of predatory flight schools that can protect students without destroying the industry, which is why NATA is supporting Assembly Bill 1140 (AB 1140) to provide an 18-month delay in compliance for flight training providers. AB 1140 also requires the California legislature to investigate the unique nature and challenges of regulating an industry as diverse as flight training. During the delay in compliance, NATA and its member companies are prepared to work with the legislature and student groups to find solutions that work! Without this delay, the regulations, which were crafted without the input of industry, will destroy the flight training industry in the state as many of the small business that have operated for years are forced to close their doors and layoff their employees.
For more information, please contact:
Director, Regulatory Affairs
National Air Transportation Association
Visit or return to NATA’s site: www.nata.aero