Flight School Arrests Raise Terrorism Fears

Federal officials have arrested dozens of alleged illegal immigrants connected to a flight school in Stow, including the school’s owner and students who received US government clearance to train as pilots despite strict security controls put into place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The arrests of 34 Brazilian nationals that began in July and concluded quietly last month raise troubling new questions about possible holes in the government’s antiterrorism security net, which bans illegal immigrants from taking flight lessons and requires background checks on any foreigner training to fly in the United States.

No link to terrorism has been found in connection with the Stow flight school, TJ Aviation Flight Academy at Minute Man Air Field, 30 miles northwest of Boston, US immigration officials said.

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Three Brazilian nationals accused being in the country illegally while studying to be pilots at a Stow flight school said they were cleared by the federal Transportation Security Administration for flight training.

The men, who agreed to talk to NewsCenter 5 under a condition of anonymity, said they came to the United States legally but now have expired visas. They said the TSA never asked them about their immigration status.

“I did an application for the TSA. They looked at my background and there’s nothing criminal,” said one. “I’m not a terrorist,’’ he said.

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