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FAA proposes including photos on pilot licenses

By Mike M. Ahlers, CNN
If you're not Orville or Wilbur Wright, your picture is not on your pilot license, though the law has required it since 2004.
If you're not Orville or Wilbur Wright, your picture is not on your pilot license, though the law has required it since 2004.
  • The photographs were already required by a 2004 law
  • That law also called for a biometric identifier on the license
  • Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said the agency is dragging its feet

Washington (CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration announced Thursday a proposal to include pilots' photographs on their pilot licenses -- something that was required by law in 2004 but has yet to be enacted.

The announcement comes one month after Rep. John Mica, R-Florida, criticized the agency for dragging its feet, noting that the only picture on the current FAA license is that of aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Under the new FAA proposal, pilots will get licenses -- or "certificates," in FAA parlance -- with their photographs on them, which will be valid for eight years. The proposal does not call for a biometric identifier, such as a fingerprint -- something that the 2004 law said should be included if "the administrator considers [it] necessary."

"The Department of Transportation is committed to keeping the traveling public safe," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. "This is an important safeguard to help make sure individuals can't pose as pilots, whatever their intentions."

"Our current certificates are plastic and tamper-resistant, but this proposal will make them even more secure," said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, a former airline pilot.

An FAA official said the biometric identifier is under consideration.

"It is mind-boggling that six years [after passing the law], after spending millions of dollars, the FAA license still does not have a photograph," Mica, the ranking member on the House Transportation Committee, wrote in a letter last month to Babbitt, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole.

At issue is the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. Among its many provisions: a requirement that the FAA administrator develop pilots' licenses "resistant to tampering, alteration, and counterfeiting." The law also requires new licenses to include a photograph, and be capable of accommodating other forms of security.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) noted that the FAA requires pilots to carry other government-issued photo ID cards, such as driver's licenses or military ID. AOPA called that a "commonsense" requirement until the FAA can set up its own system of photographing pilots.

"While we have no real objection to adding the required information to the pilot's certificate, we do want to ensure that the final rule is as minimally burdensome for pilots as possible," AOPA spokesman Chris Dancy said in October.