Photos on pilot certificates not new

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The FAA has issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making to require photos on pilot certificates. But did you know that this isn’t the first time photos were on pilot certificates?

Details of the proposal are now being studied by various aviation groups, with the deadline for comments set for Feb. 17, 2011.

To apply for a certificate with a photo, the FAA would require a pilot to submit an application for a new or replacement certificate in person. For these in-person applications, a pilot must appear at a Flight Service District Office (FSDO) or other FAA designee, such as a Knowledge Testing Center or designated pilot examiner. All certificate holders applying for a certificate with a photo for the first time would submit that application in person. The FAA has 96 FSDOs in the U.S. and approximately 2,700 designees world-wide who can process applications.

The new certificates would be valid for eight years and a fee of $22 is proposed for each new or renewal certificate. After the eight year expiration date, renewal requires a new photo, which, like the first, must have been taken within 90 days of the application.

After a person has a pilot certificate with photo, he or she must appear in person to change the name, date of birth, or other data. Lost or damaged certificates may be replaced by mail.

Holders of private, recreational or sport pilot certificates would have five years to secure the photo certificates. Commercial pilots would have four years to comply and pilots with current airline transport ratings would have three years. Applicants for student certificates, currently exempt from the requirement for a plastic certificate, will be required to obtain a photo certificate, so the FAA proposes to discontinue the policy of Aviation Medical Examiners issuing student pilot certificates along with a first medical certificate.

The NPRM does not include specific identity verification standards and processes. These probably will be included in the final rule.

Currently there are about 740,000 pilots. With the initial application and renewal required every eight years, FAA estimates the cost to pilots over the next 20 years will be $445.8 million for the photo IDs ($235.8 million in today’s dollars). The fee, plus time off work, travel and other connected expenses, might be about $175 for each pilot, so total cost over the 20 years for the three certificates is projected to be about $375.

Officials with aviation’s alphabet groups are studying the NPRM, which covered more than 10 pages in the Federal Register. The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) are not opposing the rule, but officials said they are seeking ways to help the FAA develop a process that satisfies security issues without giving pilots undue burdens and costs.

The requirement for photos on certificates is not new. When I obtained my private license in 1954, the Department of Commerce, which oversaw aviation, required an airman identification card that included not only a photo, but a fingerprint as well. The card was issued by the designated examiner.

Comments about the NPRM may be submitted in any one of several ways. Identify your comments by Docket Number FAA-2010-1127. To comment online, go to and follow the instructions. You can send your comments by mail to: Docket Operations, M-30, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Room W12-140, West Building Ground Floor, Washington, D.C., 20590-0001. To send by fax, the number is 202-493-2251.

Charles Spence is GAN’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.


  1. says

    Just another big government ploy to justify their job. counterfitting would be easy. Few people look like their photo in 2-3 years. Regards Ray Simpkins. 87 and still trying to fly.

  2. says

    I RECEIVED MY PRIVATE LICENSE IN 1955, AND THE caa HAD DONE AWAY WITH THE PICTURE IN YOUR LICENSE BY THEN. As it is , now we have to show our drivers license in conjunction airline tickets etc, going through redoing our licenses will really put a burden on the FAA local ofices , to the point that it will probably take about two or three years before they get to all of us pilots. And by the time there comes along the first batch of pilots will be ready to renew. Boy is this going to be a fiasco.

  3. Doug Rodrigues says

    …Just more bureaucratic hassle for Big Government to justify their existence. In 46 years I’ve been ramp checked only once….to see my Medical Certificate. Once photos are put on your pilot certificates, is the FAA then going to invent another un-needed Government program of hiring inspectors to do ramp checks of pilot’s photos? Knowing how much the Government functions on illogical reasoning, that wouldn’t surprise me. i.e., invent a program and then find reasons to have to enforce it. Just think of all the cumulative wasted time that pilots have to do to accomplish this worthless task? For what???

  4. Jim Bruchas says

    Since I have to carry an ID anyway, I fail to understand what the picture adds to security. It is not a License it is a certificate. It is only valid if one has a current medical and bi annual as well as currency. I think the idiots in congress think it is like a driver’s license, but it is not. I am totally against the whole idea. Our FSDO is under lock and key and can only be accessed by appointment only so it should be “REAL EASY” to get a new one. Of course one needs to get a picture as well. Just wait untli the Fumbling Aviation Administration gets done writing the regulation. Bureaucracy is wonderful!

  5. Jack Thompson says

    In my 37 years of carrying a pilot’s certificate, I’ve had to display it for the FAA exactly once, for a ramp check. In the time that I rented airplanes, FBO’s wanted to see a logbook and take a turn around the patch. I can recall one FBO chuckling at my offer to show him my license when going through the formalities.

    While I am generally supportive of anything that helps with security, I’m not convinced that this change accomplishes anything. A driver’s license with a photo, our state-based national identity card, can link the face to the name and address. Why do we need to duplicate it?

  6. Brad H. says

    Remind me how this new rule is going to significantly increase security (I assume that’s the war-cry)? It is nothing but a product of the great governmental illusion: Money spent = progress made. What a crock.

  7. Mike says

    I’ve no objections to the photo, but please make sure that international FAA holders can be accomodated – since the UK FSDO does not accept any Flight operation matters!! does that mean another trip to the US so i can maintain my reciprical licence
    ” Qoute
    Please note: This office does not handle any pilot (operations) issues at all, only maintenance issues within the UK. For pilot/operations issues, please contact the NY IFU at (718) 995-5450. The NY IFU handles operations issues for all of Eurpoe (not just the UK). For all other European maintenance issues outside of the UK, please contact the Frankfurt IFO at 49-69-7535-7700.

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