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Proposed pilot's licenses to have digital likenesses
January 12, 2011
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  • By Rob Stapleton

    January 9, 2011

    Aproposal to re-issue pilots’ licenses with the holder’s photographis being bandied about by the Federal Aviation Administration, while many pilots are wondering how much it will cost in the end.

    “I don’t mind the photograph, but I do mind the costs,” said pilot Bob Edison. “Just think — every two years Certified Flight Instructors will be forced to renew their authorizations and this will just add additional, unnecessary, useless cost to flying.”

    Edison, an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) who works in Alaska and a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), is also a two-term president of the Anchorage chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

    The proposal responds to the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) passed Dec. 2004 and requiring digital photos on all pilot certificates.

    According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the government needs the digital images of all pilots tocompare with other databasesto ensure the pilot is who he says he is. It also prevents license tampering, alteration, and counterfeiting, according to the draft evaluation of the Notice of Proposed Rule Making.

    The FAA has apublic commentperiod ending on Feb. 17 that has received little public input from the nation’s 740,000 pilots and 93,000 CFI’s that would be covered by this proposal.

    In fact, aviation groups like the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association or the Airline Pilots Association have not yet commented on the cost to the public about the $718.7 million proposal.

    While this cost is figured to include both the government and pilots’ fees over a 20 year period, aviators are concerned that the costs will mount.

    For instance, the proposal includes a mandatory eight year renewal of all pilot’s licenses. In addition to this, the cost of the application, digital photograph, additional ratings, endorsements, and authorizations could drive the expense of a license to more than $200 per pilot.

    A Homer-based commercial pilot who uses his pilot’s licenses as bag tags for his flight bag and luggage commented on the proposal.

    “This is ridiculous, everyone knows that those licenses are just a piece of useless plastic. I have never been asked to see my license, and the TSA gives pilots just as much security hassles as the passengers, so why make a big expensive deal out of them?”

    Currently the FAA does not charge licensing fees to pilots, but does charge a $2 fee for destroyed or replacement licenses.

    The cost of administering the pilot’s licenses with photos is estimated to cost $33.2 million, with estimates of $239.7 million just to process them.

    The FAA proposes a five-year phased implementation schedule for new pilots or pilots receiving additional ratings from the FAA. This federal rulemaking follows a previous mandate that all pilots have a plastic license by March 31, 2010 to replace older paper licenses.

    The initial cost to get the digitized photo version of a pilot’s license will cost a minimum of $84.42, according to government estimates.

    According to the proposal, an ATP pilot must obtain a pilot’s certificate, with photo, within three years after the final rule becomes effective. Commercial pilots are given four years, and those holding private, recreational, and sport pilot certificates must obtain a pilot’s certificate with photo within five years.

    Once passed, student pilots will need to apply for a “Student Pilot’s license” with photo before being allowed to solo, and will need a separate medical form. This will change the procedure of obtaining a paper third-class medical that also acts as a “Student Pilot’s license” on the same form.

    Pilots can comment on the proposalhere, by clicking on any existing comment and adding their own.

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