All American Life....
Welcome. It's been a while.
In my last post, oh so many months ago, my family and I were preparing to move across the Atlantic, Green Cards in hand. Well, we made it and moved to Maryland on the day of the second wave of the worst snowstorm for 100 years. Gone, the five inches of "heavy snow" in the UK and welcome to three lots of 18 inches of snow fall, roads closed due to white-out conditions and snow banks large enough that the cars buried in them are only visible in small sections.
I have learnt much in my short time here, but mostly that Social Security Numbers seem to be needed for everything and even more so when you are still waiting for one. I am also becoming familiar with the Transport Security Administration's Alien Flight Student Program. I have permanent residency in the USA and it took two and a half years to get it. Yet, having signed up with a flight school for pilot training, I don't yet have the right to take any flying instruction.
When a non-citizen in the USA wants to start training, they need to register at www.flightschoolcandidates.gov. The process is straightforward and involves entering a lot of the same information that the USCIS needs to process a visa. Once you are in the system, a message is sent to your chosen flight school so they can confirm you are signed up with them. Simple. Then, after the TSA relieve you of $130, they send you instructions on how and where to get your fingerprints done. The approved location must send your fingerprints off themselves as the TSA consider it a chain of custody. Seven days after receipt of your prints, your clearance to train should come through.
Any problems? Well, there are no TSA approved fingerprint service providers in the state of Maryland. The next approved source is through Law Enforcement and my local State Troopers' Barracks will provide the service....., they just wont mail the results to the TSA. Quick call to the TSA confirmed that the local international airport should be a help. So, a call to the Badging office at Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) should do the trick...., unless the number listed on their website is actually disconnected and their switchboard is a Cretan Labyrinth worthy of the most tech savvy of Minotaur.
Also, you go through this process every time you want to take a step in your training. Start training? $130 & fingerprints. Take your checkride to get your permit? $130 & fingerprints. Instrument rating? $130 & fingerprints. Twin Engine? $130 & fingerprints. That's the system and it was my choice to train here, so I'm not complaining. I hope all this effort is acheiving what the TSA wants it to acheive.
So right now I have to find someone to slap ink on my fingers, I must do my background reading and I must decide if I want to learn in a Cessna 172S or a Piper PA28-180 Arrow. My (TSA permitted) trial lesson was in the 172, but I hear the Piper calling.