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Congressman rips FAA for failing to put photos on pilot licenses

By Mike M. Ahlers, CNN
  • Congress passed a law in 2004 requiring pilots' photos on their commercial flying licenses
  • A Florida congressman says the only photos on the licenses now are the Wright brothers
  • The FAA it could be a year or more before photo licenses are issued to pilots

Washington (CNN) -- Six years after Congress passed a law requiring photos on commercial pilots' licenses, a Republican congressman says he is dismayed that Federal Aviation Administration-issued licenses still have only two pictures on them -- those of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

Rep. John Mica, R-Florida, said he became aware of the lapse recently when a pilot showed him his license. The plastic license, Mica said, was an improvement over the paper licenses issued before the 2004 law, but "remarkably did not have a photograph" of the pilot, nor other security features.

"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 wrote in a letter to the heads of three government agencies. The only picture on the certificate, he noted, was of Wilbur and Orville Wright on the reserve side.

Mica, the ranking member on the House Transportation Committee, wrote his letter to FAA Administrator Randy 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.

It set a one-year deadline on the mandate.

"It's absolutely astounding that DHS, TSA and FAA could, after six years to implement the Act, still achieve such an incredible level of incompetence," Mica said.

The FAA Tuesday said it expects to publish a proposal later this year that would require photo ID. But it acknowledged it could be a year or more before photo licenses are issued.

The FAA said its current licenses are plastic and tamper-resistant, an improvement over the paper certificates. "The FAA expects to publish a proposal later this year that would also require pilots to obtain a certificate with a photo," the FAA said.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) also noted the FAA requires pilots to carry other government-issued photo ID card, 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.

The Department of Homeland Security declined to discuss the issue, referring the matter to the FAA.