Smile! Proposal to put photos on pilot licenses expected by end of year

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Smile, you might soon see your face on your pilot certificate.

The FAA says before the end of this year it will issue a Notice of Proposed Rule Making to require photos on pilot certificates. This follows years of prodding by Congress and others after a bill requiring photos on IDs in many areas was passed in 2004. The NPRM is now at the Office of Management and budget for approval, a process that usually takes several months.

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) recently ripped into the FAA, Department of Homeland Security, and Transportation Security Administration for not complying with the law after he saw a certificate that had, as he said, pictures of only two pilots, Wilbur and Orville Wright. He was chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee when the bill was passed and is now the ranking member.

Writing to the heads of the government agencies, Mica said, “It is mind-boggling that six years after passing the law, after spending millions of dollars, the FAA license still does not have a photograph.”

The law had set a one-year deadline on the mandate.

General aviation groups are not concerned about the requirement to have a photograph on certificates but await the NPRM to see if the FAA’s plan creates any financial or logistic burdens.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association wants to see how much the new licenses will cost and how they may be secured. A bill passed by Congress in 2002 requires most port employees in the United States to have photo IDs. Workers are required to purchase high-tech cards at a cost of $132.50.

Where and how to get the photo added to the license is another concern. Chris Dancy, speaking for AOPA, said cameras for auto driver licenses are right at the local office and photos can be taken and added to the licenses in minutes. However, facilities for the FAA are not so numerous nor conveniently located.

Another concern is what kind of identification a pilot might be required to show in order for the issuer to be certain the person whose photo is on the license is actually that person. He said AOPA will be seeking the least cost and least burden on pilots to comply with the law.

Pricing and logistics are a concern of officials at the Experimental Aircraft Association also. Spokesman Dick Knapinski said EAA members in general do not object to a small fee for a new license, but a hassle to obtain it would be strongly opposed. Technology is there to produce the kind of certificates planned, but how to use that technology with a minimum amount of burden is a question EAA is waiting to see answered when the NPRM is released. “We don’t want to see a new bureaucracy created,” he said.

The FAA estimates it may cost as much as $6.75 million to replace all certificates over the next five years, according to a report by the Associated Press.

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  1. Charles R. Wirt says

    This is a PROBLEM. Could photos from state DOT’s be transferred electronically for this use? I think all states use digital photos now; if the state driving license is recently enough issued it might be a partial solution. Positive identification was established in the state’s issueing process, and this could even be used to obtain new photos.

  2. Ron says

    It would make more sense to put a picture on the medical. The pilots certificate (not a licence) does not expire. How relevant is a 20+ year old picture? If you add a picture, you would have to renew every few years like drivers licence. If you do this. Then why not combine the medical and the certificate into one. There is that capability.

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