You can keep your paper pilot certificate forever, but if you want to continue flying, sooner or later you'll likely have to get one of the new, tamper-resistant, plastic certificates.
The FAA on Friday issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that, if adopted, would require pilots to get a plastic certificate within two years (five years for other airmen certificates) after the regulation is finalized in order to continue exercising their airmen privileges. The rule would also require aircraft owners to notify the FAA within five days after the sale or transfer of ownership of their aircraft.
"Some 82 percent of AOPA members said they supported this rule when we surveyed them in 2005," said Andy Cebula, executive vice president of government affairs, "and 55 percent already have a plastic certificate."
The FAA has been issuing plastic certificates since 2003, after the 9/11 attacks prompted the agency to act on a proposal published in the late 1980s but never finalized.
All pilots can voluntarily request a plastic airman certificate online, and they can keep their old paper certificate. Ordering a new certificate costs $2, but if you want the FAA to remove your social security number from the certificate or its records, you can get a plastic certificate for no cost.
The FAA also said it would issue an NPRM "in the near future" to include a photograph on pilots' certificates.
AOPA has worked closely with key members of Congress to make sure that any 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 to process the new certificates "to the extent feasible in order to minimize the burdens on pilots."
That means that if the FAA chooses to, it could have aviation medical examiners (AMEs) take the pilot's photo as part of the medical examination and forward it to the agency to include on a new certificate.
For more information, see AOPA's issue brief.
January 8, 2007