California Flight Schools Could Be Saved By New Bill

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New bill could protect California flight schools from excessive fees and costs

The California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 was passed to protect students in all privately owned postsecondary schools from loss of tuition paid before classes started. This is a trend in many states and the federal government. There are similar laws for flight schools under consideration in Arizona and Florida, two states that attract for-profit flight schools with their balmy climates suitable for many hours of flight instruction.

The California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 was recognized by California flight schools and flight instructors as a source of regulatory paperwork, filing, inspections and other requirements which would overwhelm individual flight instructors and flight school operators. The California State legislature introduced Senate Bill 619 to correct some of burdens the original act imposed on instructors and flight schools. Schools and instructors who did not collect tuition, fees and other expenses before instruction started were given a temporary waiver earlier. Senate Bill 619 should correct these burdens before the waiver expires.

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), a group representing the interests of general aviation, played a key role in getting the temporary waiver passed. AOPA is currently working with California flight schools, instructors and other interested general aviation partners to pass S. B. 619 before July 1, 2011, the temporary waiver’s expiration date. John Pfeiffer, AOPA’s regional representative for California predicts success for this goal thanks to the concerted efforts of all parties.

One major objection to the Private Postsecondary Education Act is it does not allow flight schools and instructors to collect “block time fees”. This is a common practice for flight instructors, schools and fixed based operators to give students extra credit on their account in exchange for a large upfront payment. For example, a student pays $1000.00 toward flight lesson fees and is given credit for $1,100.00, a 10 percent bonus for the prepayment. Since flight training is expensive and can burn through cash rapidly, all parties benefit from this arrangement.

The other objection was the duplicity of regulations generated by the act. Flight instruction is already regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration and many of the states rules overlapped the Federal Aviation Regulations in regard to training, inspection and paperwork requirements.

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