Pilot ID process needs to be convenient, inexpensive, AOPA reminds the FAA

August 7, 2005

Pilot ID process needs to be convenient, inexpensive, AOPA reminds the FAA

AOPA continues to advocate for a simple, inexpensive way for pilots to get airmen certificates with their photos on them.

Congress ordered the FAA to begin issuing upgraded, counterfeit-resistant pilot certificates with photos by this December. And the lawmakers also required that the pilot certificates be capable of accommodating biometric or other unique identification data as well.

AOPA worked closely with key members of Congress to make sure that the new photo requirement would not impose an undue burden on general aviation pilots. Thanks to AOPA's advocacy, Congress told the FAA that it could use designees such as aviation medical examiners (AMEs) to process the new certificates "to the extent feasible in order to minimize the burdens on pilots."

Last month, AOPA again suggested to the FAA that it consider using AMEs to process the new certificates. "There are 4,300 AMEs in the United States, and pilots are required to visit an AME periodically to obtain a medical certificate," AOPA wrote, "and the AME is experienced in processing and communicating sensitive and confidential information to the FAA."

AOPA said that forcing pilots to travel to one of the FAA's 86 flight standards district offices (FSDOs) would be an unacceptable burden.

The FAA agreed. In a July reply letter, FAA Deputy Association Administrator for Aviation Safety Margaret Gilligan said that "using the [FSDOs] would not be a good solution for either the FAA or the airmen community. We appreciate your suggestion that the FAA use the aviation medical examiners as one of the designee options."

Gilligan said the agency was working through the rulemaking process and that it would issue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would "generate many comments from many interested parties." The FAA promised to take those comments into account before making final decisions on implementing the photo ID law.

July 8, 2005