Skip to comments.Pilot subject of terror alert - Man, who trained at Briscoe Field, found in Britain
Posted on 04/09/2005 3:45:08 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
A man trained as a pilot at a Lawrenceville airport three years ago raised an international terror alert this week. He was found in Britain on Friday, the FBI said.
Zayead Christopher Hajaig, a 35-year-old British national, "remains a person of interest" although he has been located, said Steve Emmett, an FBI spokesman in Atlanta.
FBI officials released little information about Hajaig on Friday. They would not say whether he had been detained or how he had been located.
Earlier this week, authorities issued a "special alert bulletin" warning airports about Hajaig, who took flight lessons at Astron Enterprises at Gwinnett County Airport-Briscoe Field during 2002. The alert said he should not be allowed to rent or fly airplanes or take flying lessons.
In the special bulletin sent to law enforcement agencies and aviation facilities, the Atlanta Joint Terrorism Task Force said Hajaig tried to have his pilot rating upgraded despite not being qualified and became "aggressive" while pushing for the flight school to speed up his training schedule.
An upgrade in rating could mean several things for a pilot. It could mean the pilot is qualified to fly larger and more complex aircraft or the pilot is trained to fly in poor conditions. FBI officials would not say why Hajaig sought to upgrade his pilot rating.
Astron flight instructor Arthur Gagnon confirmed Hajaig had been a student at the school. "But I did not teach that guy," Gagnon said Friday. "I just work part time there."
Employees at the school, located in a one-story, metal-sided building about a half-mile from the main entrance to the airport, referred questions about Hajaig to the owner. The school's owner did not return messages left at the school Friday seeking comment.
Hajaig was in the United States illegally, but was able to obtain an FAA pilot's license, according to the FBI terror alert.
Two of the hijackers who crashed airliners in to the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, trained as pilots at Briscoe Field. Mohamed Atta and Marwanal-Shehhi rented single engine airplanes at the Lawrenceville airport about eight months before the attacks and flew with flight instructors of Advanced Aviation.
Manoj Lamba, chief flight instructor at the Flight School of Gwinnett another business that teaches pilots at Briscoe Field said it was hard to believe someone could slip through the "extensive" screening process put in place for flight schools after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Lamba said that to enroll in a flight school, an applicant must prove he or she is a U.S. citizen and must present a valid birth certificate or passport. A citizen of a foreign country must register with the Transportation Security Administration and submit to a lengthy background check, he said, and applicants must submit fingerprints and cannot start lessons until the background check is completed.
It is unclear what sort of identification Hajaig used to enroll in the flight school or how long he took classes. FAA spokesman Roland Herwig said Hajaig received a private pilot license in April 2002. Hajaig obtained single-engine, multi-engine and instrument ratings, Herwig said. But Hajaig's pilot licence was voided in November 2002 because he had not sought an examination from an aviation physician, Herwig said.
Herwig declined to answer questions about the background checks the FAA uses when screening people applying for a pilot's license. Hajaig listed a post office box in Morrow as his address when applying for his pilot license, Herwig said. A public records search of Hajaig's name gave as his residence, for several years, a home on Peridot Court in Jonesboro.
Neighbors there said they did not know Hajaig. "I did not know anybody like that lived next door," said Jeryl Clemons, who said her family has lived on Peridot Court for 14 years.
Hajaig registered to vote in Clayton County, according to records. Elections Director Annie Bright said he was removed from voter rolls in 2002 after county officials discovered he was not a citizen.
Staff writers Saeed Ahmed, Dave Hirschman, Bill Montgomery, Add Seymour, Pete Scott and Eric Stirgus contributed to this article.
There has to be much more to this story and I can think of an endless number of questions for the authorities and the flight school. My first question is why are we just now hearing about this person?
And how many more are out there?
I have a feeling that Hajaig must have been very polished so as not to raise suspicions of even casual observers. At the same time he couldn't have been too bright to not have taken the time to get a required physical.
That's all they did to him?
We must really value our election system. [/sarcasm]
Uh, how is this possible with our very own highly trained TSA??
I earned my private pilots license at this airport in '79. My how times have changed. This used to be a sleepy little county airport. Now, it's training terrorists....
I don't know, but I start flight school later this week (and will graduate as an instructor at the school later this year) and I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for guys like this!
Something doesn't smell right with this story.
It's been a lot of years but I think that I had to have my medical certificate before I could take the flight test for my private license.
And since they use your SS# now for your pilots license # why would the FAA even issue the license after 911 without checking its validity?
"Elections Director Annie Bright said he was removed from voter rolls in 2002 after county officials discovered he was not a citizen."
Unbelieveable! Any bets as to his political registration?
Did this man tell his flight instructors not to bother with the landing-an-airplane part of the course? Probably not, since they might figure out something wasn't quite on the up and up.
Thank you for the LINK!
You have to have a current medical certificate prior to solo.
The FAA gives you an option of using your social security number on your license or they can issue you a unique number for the purpose of your certificate.
When I got my private (25 years ago) I tried not to have my SS# as my license # but they wouldn't allow it.
As far as the medical, you are right, I had to have it before solo, I didn't recall it as I think I went and got it the first week that I started lessons and it was a non issue to me.
I saw some guy interviewed on the local news last night who had taken lessons with this Hajaig and he was vehement in that this guy was not a terriorist. Now just how he knew this was not explained but I was sitting here thinking what made him believe everything this guy told him. He explained that Hajaig was so intelligent etc and no way was he a terriorist......sorry but I'm not buying this whole this thing. I'd like a more through investigation as to just what he presented to this flight school that they deemed legimate...somebody get on the ball please.....I only live two miles from Briscoe Field and I don't want any practice runs over my house!!
All rightee then.
I wonder who he voted for?
And how many more are out there?
How can the FAA issue a license to someone here illegally? Does the FAA work for the USA or against it?