Muslim Still taking flight lessons at Venice Florida Airport.

Muslims are still taking flight lessons at the Venice Municipal (Civil Aviation) Airport!

It was brought to the attention of the Sarasota Patriots at our January meeting by our friend and speaker, Usama Dakdok, Muslims are still taking flight lessons at the Venice Airport! Yes, That is where Mohamed Atta and three other 911 Trade Center pilots received their training.

A couple of the Sarasota Patriots members, headed over to the airport to verify and yes it is true! They made a short video posted on YouTube - shown at the right ---->.

The "students" are there and in numbers. They come and go regularly and their number at the St. Augustine Airport is tripple that of Venice. One doesn't suppose they are training for the Saudi Air Lines?

The YouTube post was picked up by the Venice Gondolier Sun newspaper which wrote the following phlegmatic article.

Foreign flight students common here


The prospect of people from the Middle East learning to fly in Venice bothered a local couple so much they recorded a YouTube video about it. When the couple (who call each other Michael and Beth but don't give a last name) went to a flight school to check out reports about Muslim pilot trainees, they saw signs in the window welcoming new students.
The man in the video said the trainees "are all from the Middle East; they are all Arabic and, I believe, Muslim students."

  Above are the welcoming signs for the "Student Pilots".
He doesn't say what information other than the names on which he based his conclusions.

The flight school isn't identified, but Arne Kruithof, who owns Florida Flight Training Center (FFTC) at the airport, said it wasn't his school. That leaves Florida Flyers Flight Academy, which didn't respond to a request for comment.

The video goes on to say that Mohamed Atta, who flew the plane that struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, "was a student at the very same school."

In fact, Atta and Marwan al Shehhi, who flew into the South Tower, learned to fly at Huffman Aviation Inc., which was dissolved by the Florida Division of Corporations in 2005. Former owner Rudi Dekkers is in prison on drug smuggling charges.

The woman says the school they visited is no longer called Huffman Aviation, b! ut it actually never was. Florida Flyers Flight Academy is a relatively new Venice business, with its principal facility in St. Augustine established in 2008. State records show the president is Rainer Hueckels Loeffeck.

The man says he was told by the school's manager that another 15-20 "foreign" students are expected by the end of the end of the month. He doesn't say if he was told from where the students will be coming.

"This is to me outlandish and shocking, that we can still be training Arabic Muslim men to learn how to crash planes at the Venice airport," he said.

Kruithof is worried about how some people might react to the video if they think everything in it is accurate.

"It concerns me because somebody one day is going to hurt one of the students," he said. Oversight

Nobody from anywhere is being taught how to crash a plane, Kruithof said. What is happening is that students, mostly from outside the U.S., are trying to qualify as commercial pilots to take advantage of a worldwide shortage.

And in order to come here to do that, beginning with getting a private pilot's license, he said, they have to pass a stringent security screening prior to lesson No. 1. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) application requires personal information about place of birth, nationality, citizenship, residences and employment; a copy of the applicant's passport; and, at the end, fingerprints taken by law enforcement of an approved agency.

The applicant must come on a student visa and begin training within 180 days of getting approval and finish within 360.

The flight school is involved throughout the process but "we're not allowed to teach them at all" before the TSA gives its approval, Kruithof said. Before these new restrictions w! ere put in place, he said, there was far less oversight. The TSA didn't exist and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and flight schools were concerned about pilot safety, not national safety.

People would come to Venice on vacation and decide to get a pilot's license while they were here even though they didn't have the appropriate visa, he said. The attitude among flight school owners at he time was "my job is to teach them how to fly," he said.

That attitude is what enabled Atta and al-Shehhi - as well as Ziad Jarrah, who trained at FFTC - to get licensed despite questionable backgrounds.

Now, he said, the TSA, the FAA and the schools work together, and the fact no incidents involving student pilots or domestic flights have occurred since 9/11 is proof the system works.

"I can't imagine anyone squeezing through the cracks," he said.

No walls

Although the Venice Municipal Airport's origin is as a training site for military pilots during World War II, it also has a history of training foreign students.

The major factor is price, Kruithof said. It would cost about $50,000 to get a commercial pilot's license here, half the expense of training in Europe.

A related factor is weather. Virtually every day in Venice is a flying day, meaning training can go faster - “time is money”, he said.

At least locally, Kruithof said, it's common for foreign students to outnumber U.S. citizens. The economic recovery has spurred entrepreneurship in the airline industry overseas, especially in India, where there is a dearth of pilots because potential students couldn't afford school during the recession.

People who already had their licenses when the economy picked back up quickly found jobs, but many positions - even in the U.S. - are going unfilled.

Flight schools would like to turn out more pilots but there are no loans for training students whose families can't afford to pay the cost, and wealthier families are more likely to send their children to an aviation-related university, like Embry-Riddle, in Daytona Beach.

So the schools depend on foreign students, and try to build up contacts overseas to keep them coming. Kruithof said most of his students are from Italy and Germany as well as India, and that Florida Flyers Flight Academy has good connections in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Indeed, its website shows it has an office in Egypt.

Kruithof said he's not aware of any country specific restrictions on flight students. The travel restrictions the Trump Administration has tried to put in place wouldn't exclude students from India, Saudi Arabia or Egypt from coming to the U.S. for training even though 16 of the 9/11 hijackers - and two of the pilots - were from the latter two countries.

The U.S. is the home of flying, he said, so its people from around the world should be allowed to train here.

"In aviation, we don't build walls," Kruithof said. "We land everywhere, we go everywhere.