Flight schools explain vetting process after East Hartford plane - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Flight schools explain vetting process after East Hartford plane crash

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One occupant of the plane that crashed was the owner of CT Flight Academy (WFSB) One occupant of the plane that crashed was the owner of CT Flight Academy (WFSB)
HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

Eyewitness News looked into the screening process for pilots after a deadly plane crash in East Hartford earlier this week.

A plane crashed on Main Street on Tuesday afternoon. Authorities told Eyewitness News that two men in the twin engine piper plane were Arian Prevalla, who is an instructor at the American Flight Academy, and a student pilot, Feras Freitekh.

Freitekh, who was a Jordanian national, died in the crash while Prevalla survived and remains in the Bridgeport Hospital Burn Center.

Investigators confirmed that the crash appears to be intentional and now, they are trying to determine if it was a suicide.

The screening process for pilots is a three-pronged approach.

The Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Security Administration and ultimately the instructors at any flight school, are all responsible in some way for screening potential students.

The mayor and police chief in Orland Hills, Illinois clarified that Freitekh was not a resident of their town, despite what his pilot's application said. A business associate of Freitekh's father lives in Orland Hills and allowed Freitekh to send mail there.

There was "no proof of a driver's license, no proof of an ID card," Orland Hills Police Chief Thomas Scully said.

While Freitekh's residency still gets sorted out, many want to know why he chose to learn in America. John Lampson, flight instructor at Premier Flight Center, said it's often cheaper.

"I've been told it was less expensive for someone to come over here and live and train here," Lampson said.

Freitekh learned at the neighboring American Flight Academy where Prevalla was an instructor, looking at their website, they tout their rates of $250 down and $175 a month. Another section shows they cater to international clients.

The website for American Flight Academy states they will walk international clients through the visa process. Once they get the visa, international students are screened by the FAA and TSA. Flight schools are required by the TSA to train instructors, such as Lampson, every 12 months to recognize red flags.

"People have a gut instinct," Lampson said. "If something seems strange to you or me, it's probably not my pilot's license that will enable me to see it."

Eyewitness News learned schools aren't obligated to do background checks. Several flight schools told Eyewitness News they were audited annually by the TSA, making sure the students, who were federally vetted, were the ones who are actually taking to the skies.

"Anything from maintenance of aircraft, record keeping, student enrollment, so forth," Lampson said.

While international students get vetted by the government, U.S. residents need to prove their citizenship with a passport, birth certificate and a driver's license to become a student. 

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