BOSTON – A pilot who was deemed a potential security risk sued the U.S. government and said its refusal to let him be trained to fly bigger planes may be based on mistaken identity.
Robert William Gray, 34, is a British citizen who has lived in the United States since 1993 and has flown small commercial planes since 1997. He says a government document describes him as Hispanic.
Since October, the Transportation Security Administration (search) has assessed all non-U.S. citizens seeking flight training for aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds, spokeswoman Ann Davis said.
"Obviously, the program was designed to prevent terrorists or other individuals who pose a threat to aviation or national security from receiving flight training," she said. Davis said she could not speak specifically about Gray's case.
Gray said he was told only that the decision was based on derogatory information that the agency would not disclose because it was classified. His federal lawsuit against TSA and the Department of Homeland Security (search) was filed in Boston last week.
The lawsuit said the TSA provided him a printout from a U.S. Customs computer that indicated Gray was Hispanic. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland (search), and a spokeswoman for his employer, Cape Air, said Gray was "as Irish as St. Patrick."
Michelle Haynes, director of communications for Cape Air, said Gray is a "very qualified pilot, and we're happy to have him in our Cape Air family."