Photo Pilot Certificate Proposal

by Wally Moran on February 8

A lot of pilots I talked to recently seem excited to hear that they will soon get a pilot certificate that has their picture on it. I am sorry to hear this as getting a new pilot certificate with my picture on it is somewhere around the last thing I need. My certificate already has my name, address and description as well as a very nice picture of Wilbur and Orville.  Why would I want my picture there also? I get to see my smiling face every morning when I shave and for me that’s plenty.

I wonder if those who think this is a good idea have given this much thought. I also wonder if they have read the 14 page notice of proposed rulemaking that the FAA has published to describe this program. (Docket no. FAA-2010-1127; Notice No. 2010-16 Photo requirements for pilot certificates)

Here are some of the things it tells us. First off, every pilot who holds a pilot certificate, including student pilots, will have to get a new one. That alone should create a lot of new government jobs; I guess that could be good for the unemployment rate. But, in my view not so great for us pilots. The NPRM also tells us that the FAA needs to recover the additional costs associated with this rule so in the future these new pilot certificates will cost us about $22 bucks, only to increase over time. Today, if you take a check ride and get a new certificate, it is free. If you need a duplicate it is just $2. See the progress so far?

Now, I wonder where those pictures will come from. Some say well, we can get our picture taken when we take our FAA medical exam. Not true, according to the NPRM, FAA doctors will not be authorized to do that. In fact, FAA doctors will no longer be able to issue student pilot certificates either. So, we will have to go someplace else to get a picture taken and it must be in accordance with the very specific instructions issued in the NPRM. Read that to mean more cost for the pilot.

Now that you have your pictures, don’t think you can just send them to the FAA and get a certificate. No, instead they say, we must go to the FSDO, a knowledge testing center or a designated pilot examiner to get our application verified.  In the words of the NPRM “The FAA anticipates that designees would charge a fee, in addition to the fee charged by the FAA, to accept and verify applications”.  Another added cost for pilots.

OK, we have paid for our pictures, paid our verification fee and attached our check for $22 to the FAA now I wonder how long it will take to get this new certificate? The NPRM says it could take six to eight weeks!! This now includes student pilot certificates. Remember, you can’t fly without a certificate.

So here we are with added FAA bureaucracy, significant additional fees and greater inconvenience to the pilot population all to replace a system that is currently working fine. The comment period for this proposal ends on Feb. 17, 2011. I hope other pilots are inspired to comment.

Click here for proposed FAA reg and comment information.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Edith Overcash April 15, 2012 at 12:59 am

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Ian Maddox September 8, 2011 at 12:18 am

I think there is a huge win for GA in putting photos on pilot’s licenses. Imagine over half a million pilot ambassadors waltzing around the country flashing their FAA-issued photo IDs every time they rented a car, bought a beer, signed for a package, wrote a check, and flew commercially. I guarantee this would start many interesting conversations and would quickly lead to an increased awareness of aviation and a not insignificant number of new PPL and SPL starts.

When you look at it that way, you might agree that we can turn these lemons into pure gold. Sign me up for the photo ID. I can’t wait to start showing that green card off.

Wally Moran February 17, 2011 at 7:14 am


The link to the rule and comments is at the bottom of the blog. Today is the last day for comments, I hope they have many.

larry Olson February 15, 2011 at 5:55 am

Would be great if you could attach a link to comments on this stupid rule, so we could all comment. Thanks.

Doug Douglass February 8, 2011 at 11:55 pm

How often are they proposing updating these photo IDs? I look nothing like I did 36 years ago when I got my pilot’s certificate.

Tim February 8, 2011 at 5:26 pm

I’m sorry, I cannot agree with you on a few points. My view on whether photos should be placed on the certificate is neutral at best, I care less whether they decide or don’t decide to change the format in the future.

But, considering how inexpensive a certificate replacement is, I cannot imagine it will be much more expensive than it is now. It cost me $2 each time I needed a new one, and since I am in the military, I’ve needed it at least three times for the three moves I’ve made across the country. I didn’t think much of it when I shelled out $2, considering they could have made it much more expensive, easily.

I believe the greatest expense or inconvience would be the “passport” type photo that would be required to submit either by mail with application or through online. I honesly believe that they would allow a webcam/digital camera photo as long as it fit their requirements, and save yourself $15 for an actual passport photo from FEDEX Kinkos or USPS. So, I believe it would be more of a simple inconvienence than anything else.

As far as how long it would take to get your new certificate in the mail, well, when they transitioned between the paper cert and the plastic cert, it took only a matter of a few weeks for it to come in the mail and all the while my paper cert covered me the entire time. The deadline for when you transitioned to the plastic cert was years from when I did it. I wasn’t worried that I wasn’t going to be able to fly while waiting for FAA to supply me with my freshly minted card and high speed, low drag graphics of the Wright Brothers. I, had a different attitude then of the transitioning to the plastic cert, only because I believed that it would hold up better than my paper license as years went on.

I don’t believe that it’s just bureaucracy turning their wheels, I believe that someone, somewhere thought that it was a better idea and that it would help mitigate safety violations, terrorism, and overall better awareness of who that cardholder is.

But one thing is for sure, there is nothing to worry about. Your certificates will not expire while waiting for your application for a new certificate to be processed and mailed out. Unless of course you wait until the deadline to do it, which at this point I would simply say, “You asked for it”. You had years to ensure that you sent in for a new certificate, no excuse.

I personally think that the Pilots Certificate is as important to me as my Government Identification Card and probably should have a picture as another means of proper identification for anyone who may need it.

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