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NAFI Submits Comments and Concerns on Photo Pilot Certificate NPRM

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NAFI HEADQUARTERS, ALLEGAN, MICH. (February 15, 2011) - The National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) has submitted response to the FAA’s recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing the inclusion of a photo on every pilot certificate.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) of 2004 requires the FAA to issue improved pilot licenses that include photographs along with other requirements. While NAFI supports the FAA’s efforts to comply with this act, NAFI believes the NPRM raised points with regard to logistics, requirements, and potential effects on flight training in the United States.

Advocating on behalf of NAFI’s membership within the flight-training industry, Executive Director Jason Blair spearheaded a nearly two-month initiative by a committee of members to carefully analyze the contents of the NPRM and its possible effects on flight training.

In its submission, NAFI noted that there are potential inconsistencies between the proposed rule changes and the law that Congress passed. Blair noted concern about the expedited nature of this NPRM due in part to Congressional pressure [on the FAA]. “The possible effects on student pilots and flight training cannot be overlooked,” he said.

One example includes a six- to eight-week delay between application and issuance of the photo certificate, which could unnecessarily prolong the time between when a student starts training and first solos, the first time they’d need that certificate. Currently, the cost-to-pilots estimates are inaccurate due to some regulatory flexibility allowed to the FAA, but NAFI objects to the need for pilots to re-apply every time they are issued a new certificate.

NAFI noted concern that the proposal could also require pilots to incur significant costs for certificates when they obtained multiple certificates in rapid succession during concentrated flight training. The association proposed that one possible solution would be to issue one “pilot identification certificate” that would be issued periodically (such as every eight years) and that would be accompanied by a traditional certificate that provides a pilot’s limitations and privileges.

The NPRM was ambiguous as to whether the proposed changes would apply to flight instructor certificates. NAFI advocated that CFI certificates be excluded from the photo requirement. Since a CFI certificate is only valid when accompanied by an appropriate pilot certificate, inclusion of a photograph on a CFI certificate would represent a duplicative requirement with no additional security benefit. Additionally, the CFI certificate currently requires renewal every two years, and adding a photo requirement would represent an increased and unnecessary burden and cost to the CFI community.

The impetus for the NPRM was the reaction of Rep. John Mica (R-FL) to non-compliance by the FAA with laws passed in 2004 that gave the FAA a one-year deadline to implement the use of pilot licenses with photo identification and biometric identifiers, such as fingerprint data. Those laws, known as the “Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act” specifically outline the requirements and deadlines for the new certificates. Specifically, according to the rule, the licenses need to be tamper resistant, include a photo of the airman, and have the ability to accommodate biometrics. Shortly after issuing a memo to the heads of the FAA, TSA, and Homeland Security, the FAA responded with this NPRM.

NAFI and its membership appreciate the opportunity to respond to this NPRM and will make its resources and knowledge available to the FAA for any further questions regarding this proposal and how to best implement its goals within the aviation training community.

The National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) is an international organization dedicated to raising and maintaining the professional standing of flight instructors. NAFI is the largest flight instructor association with over 5,500 active members. NAFI advocates on behalf of its members and the interests of the over 90,000 certified flight instructors in the United States. NAFI has served as the voice of aviation education since inception in 1967 and serves the full spectrum of the flight instructor community.

For more information, visit www.NAFINet.org or call 866.806.6156.