Flight school owner defends 'person of interest'

By Ed Brock

The owner of a Gwinnett County flight school who knew a former Jonesboro resident, now a "person of interest" on the FBI terrorist watch list, says the man is no terrorist.

"He was a pretty decent guy," said Dale Strickland regarding 35-year-old Zayead Christopher Hajaig.

Hajaig, a British national, has been located in the United Kingdom and was listed as a "person of interest" in a law enforcement bulletin that came out earlier this week. Reportedly Hajaig had pushed to have his pilot rating upgraded while training at Astron Enterprises at Briscoe Field in Gwinnett County.

Strickland said Hajaig had flown with his school off and on for about two and a half years and had returned to the United Kingdom about 10 days ago to take care of personal business.

He didn't know much about the allegations made about Hajaig except that they were made independently by a part-time instructor at the school.

"I don't know what that guy's motives were," Strickland said.

Strickland said he didn't like the way the media was "making (Hajaig) look like a common terrorist and he's not." Hajaig was in the country illegally at one point because his immigration papers had expired, Strickland said, but he had entered the country legally.

Initially Hajaig gave a Jonesboro address to the school but later changed it to a post office box.

FBI Special Agent Steve Lazarus said he could not comment on the case and that the bulletin was not supposed to be released to the public.