FAA plans to require security-enhanced plastic pilot certificates

September 12, 2005

FAA plans to require security-enhanced plastic pilot certificates

Plastic pilot certificate

The FAA has announced it will mandate that pilots replace their current paper airman certificates with the plastic credit-card-size certificate that incorporates security features. The proposal, which the FAA says it will release in the near future, would require the upgrade within two years.

The new certificate, which was first implemented in 2003 for all new issuances, complements an AOPA proposal that the FAA turned into a rule requiring pilots to carry a government-issued photo ID as well as a pilot certificate. This addressed identity issues raised by security officials after 9/11.

After 9/11, Congress mandated the FAA to develop and implement pilot certificates with photo identification. The FAA's 'interim fix' is to require all pilots to upgrade to a plastic certificate that does not have photo ID.

"The goal is to issue pilots a certificate that includes their picture," explained Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. "AOPA's top concern is that pilots do not have to travel long distances, and we have made sure Congress permitted the FAA to use designees to minimize the burden on pilots."

One way the FAA could make the process easier for pilots is to allow aviation medical examiners (AMEs) to take the pilot's picture and process the certificates-most pilots must visit them periodically anyway, and there are more than 4,300 available to do the job.

These plastic certificates, and ultimately the ones with photo ID, are intended to increase durability, protect pilot identities, and add one more element of security to our aviation system.

Pilots currently can voluntarily request a plastic airmen certificate online. Students who earn or pilots who upgrade their certificate automatically receive the plastic card made from high-quality PVC plastic media card stock, extensive micro printing, a hologram, and an ultraviolet layer that contains certain words and phrases. But it could be two to three years before photo identification can be added to the certificates.

The FAA also announced Monday that it was withdrawing an outdated drug enforcement assistance proposal, originally issued in 1990 and intended to improve aircraft and airmen security. Advances in technology and security along with the pending proposal would address many of the concerns in the outdated proposal.

December 9, 2005