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49 CFR 1552.3 says (emphasis mine):

(4) TSA has informed the flight school that the candidate does not pose a threat to aviation or national security, or more than 30 days have elapsed since TSA received all of the information specified in paragraph (a)(2) of this section.

This one implies we can't train until we hear back from the TSA for aircraft that are in "Category 1—Regular processing for flight training on aircraft more than 12,500 pounds".

However, the section on "Category 3—Flight training on aircraft 12,500 pounds or less" says:

(4) The flight school begins the candidate's flight training within 180 days of the date the candidate submitted the information required under paragraph (a)(2) of this section to TSA.

So that tells me that as long as the information is submitted, we can begin training a non citizen immediately (for less 180 days). What is the point of this? Where is the security? Is this correct? Or is it just another confusing regulation?

What is the current industry practice? Do CFIs provide the training in this situation? Or are more TSA checks initiated?

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  • $\begingroup$ Immediately after your quoted emphasis it states "or more than 30 days have elapsed" So if the TSA has not responded within 30 days, you're good to start teaching them as long has 30 days have passed. Right? $\endgroup$ – chup Dec 3 '20 at 19:57
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This is addressed in the AFSP Candidate FAQ, which confirms that you can start training in category 3 as soon as all information has been submitted:

How long should I expect to wait after I have submitted my training event request?

[...]

Candidates in Initial, Instrument, and Multi-Engine training (category 3) may begin training as soon as AFSP receives all required information, including the candidate's passport, fingerprints, the fee. You and the provider will be notified once AFSP receives the fingerprints and you have been granted Permission to Initiate Training.

That's also what the regulation says, but the FAQ may be a little clearer.

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Yes training can be provided for aircraft under 12,500 LBS

Category 1 and 2 apply to training in aircraft over 12,500 LBS. Category one is the standard process for application.

(a) Category 1—Regular processing for flight training on aircraft more than 12,500 pounds.

A flight school may not provide flight training in the operation of any aircraft having a maximum certificated takeoff weight of more than 12,500 pounds to a candidate, except for a candidate who receives expedited processing under paragraph (b) of this section, unless—

Category 2 does lay out a process for expedited applications that has some time requirements but section (iv) notes that you still must hear back from the TSA before training begins.

(b) Category 2—Expedited processing for flight training on aircraft more than 12,500 pounds.

(1) A flight school may not provide flight training in the operation of any aircraft having a maximum certificated takeoff weight of more than 12,500 pounds to a candidate who meets any of the criteria of paragraph (b)(2) of this section unless—

(iv) TSA has informed the flight school that the candidate does not pose a threat to aviation or national security or more than 5 days have elapsed since TSA received all of the information specified in paragraph (a)(2) of this section.

(v) The flight school begins the candidate's flight training within 180 days of either event specified in paragraph (b)(1)(iv) of this section.

Category 3 applies only to aircraft of 12,500 LBS or Less and section 4 does indeed allow you to start training so long as it beings within 180 days of your paperwork being submitted.

(c) Category 3—Flight training on aircraft 12,500 pounds or less. A flight school may not provide flight training in the operation of any aircraft having a maximum certificated takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or less to a candidate unless—

(1) The flight school has first notified TSA that the candidate has requested such flight training.

(2) The candidate has submitted to TSA, in a form and manner acceptable to TSA:

(i) The information required under paragraph (a)(2) of this section; and

(ii) Any other information required by TSA.

(3) The flight school has submitted to TSA, in a form and manner acceptable to TSA, a photograph of the candidate taken when the candidate arrives at the flight school for flight training.

(4) The flight school begins the candidate's flight training within 180 days of the date the candidate submitted the information required under paragraph (a)(2) of this section to TSA.

So for aircraft over 12,500LBS you must hear back from the TSA in some capacity before training begins. While for aircraft under 12,500LBS you can start your training as soon as the paperwork is submitted.

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  • $\begingroup$ I didn't miss any of that. It is just very confusing / surprising that the training can be given at all before a confirmation of cleared is received. Thanks $\endgroup$ – chup Nov 8 '19 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ @chup This has largely to do with/as a result of, the September 11th attacks, I think that the notion is that less damage can be done in/with a small aircraft. $\endgroup$ – Dave Nov 8 '19 at 13:48

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