What do a $20 bill and a new plastic pilot certificate have in common?
Microtext. And both have it for the same reasons - to prevent counterfeiting. On the FAA's new pilot certificate, microtext forms the struts of the Wright Flyer on the front, and on the back you can find microtext on the Wright brothers' collars and the Flyer's leading edges. (It's hidden in two places on the $20.)
"Some members have called our Pilot Information Center wondering what was going on with the tiny type," said Woody Cahall, AOPA vice president of aviation services. "The FAA tells us, it's not a secret code. But it is very hard to copy. It's just one of several security features incorporated by the FAA on the new, more durable certificate that make it very difficult to counterfeit."
The text is actually portions of a Wright anniversary speech.
The plastic certificates are an interim step toward pilot certificates with photos. AOPA has long supported the idea of a more durable and attractive pilot certificate. The September 11, 2001, attacks brought renewed impetus to provide a more secure pilot identification and pressure from Congress on the FAA to issue photo certificates.
The FAA has been issuing the new plastic certificates since August 2003. Anyone getting a new certificate or rating automatically gets a plastic certificate. And if a pilot needs to replace a paper certificate, the cost is only $2.
If, for privacy or security reasons, a pilot wants to remove his or her social security number from the pilot certificate and replace it with a new airman identification number, the FAA will send a new plastic certificate at no charge. Visit the FAA's Airmen's Services Web site to request the change.
The FAA is currently considering a rule to require all pilot certificates to be replaced with a plastic certificate within two years (five years for mechanics and other non-pilot certificates).
But don't worry, you don't have to surrender your first certificate. Even when you are issued a new plastic certificate, you can keep your original as a souvenir of one of the most important events in your life.
January 27, 2005