FAA Issues Photo ID Rule

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Don't Drive To The Airport Without It...

Well, now it's official. As of today, general aviation pilots will be required when flying to carry a government-issued photo ID. Like it or not ... or whether it in fact represents any change at all to your previous behavior ... it is now a regulatory fact of aviation life. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey announced the new rule last Thursday at the AOPA Expo in Palm Springs, Calif., saying, "AOPA proposed this solution and we're going right along with it. We think this is good." The FAA expects the most commonly used photo ID will be a valid driver's license issued by a U.S. state, the District of Columbia, or a U.S. territory or possession. We imagine your chances of being pulled over while aviating remain relatively slim. The FAA based its rule changes on a petition submitted by AOPA last February. Aside from a driver's license, other suitable forms of identification include a valid federal or state ID card, a U.S. armed forces' ID, credentials that authorize access to airport secure areas, or other identification currently accepted by the FAA. The new regulations require pilots to present that ID upon request by the FAA, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), National Transportation Safety Board or any law enforcement officer.

...Alphabets Weigh In...

"This is great news," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Since the September 11 attacks, the need for pilots to carry a picture ID has continued to surface in many security discussions. With the approval of AOPA's petition, this positive measure to enhance security throughout the general aviation community has become a reality." In the FAA's estimation, that enhanced security comes via "enhanced identification of pilots." GAMA also gave their official thumbs-up. "This is a good example of how the federal government and industry can work together to achieve a very important mutual goal -- security," said GAMA President Ed Bolen. EAA also applauded the rule, but with cautious reservation. While the FAA and TSA have partially adopted and enacted AOPA's request, these measures do not fully address the concerns reflected in the 1988 FAA Drug Enforcement Assistance Act and the 2001 Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which seek to improve security. EAA believes they (FAA and TSA) will continue to search for a resolution that will meet congressional requirements.

...And Practical Ramifications

As EAA points out, it is possible the government will not permanently be content with this new "security" rule. It has been widely reported that alleged 9/11 hijack ringleader Mohammed Atta had at least one driver's license and, like most pilots, drove himself to the airport that day likely while in possession of one. Of course, we all had to present government IDs when taking FAA written exams, too. So, the good news is that for most pilots compliance with the new rule will offer little in the way of change while still providing legal guidelines for identification. However, should those measures be found to fall short, Part 109(a) of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act provides that the Undersecretary of Transportation for Security, in consultation with the Administrator of the FAA, may "consider whether to require all pilot licenses to incorporate a photograph of the license holder and appropriate bio-metric imprints." In that case, we'd all need to possess a little more than a simple ID when flying. Something to think about.