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Date: January 14, 2016

Changes to How Student Pilot
Certificates are Issued

by Ira McComic

This week, the FAA issued notice that itís changing the way Student Pilot certificates are issued. Effective April 1st of this year, a person applying for a Student Pilot certificate must wait until he or she passes a security check before receiving the certificate.

Before the new regulations, aspiring pilots normally received a Student Pilot license immediately upon applying, and a security check was made after the application. With the new regulations, before the FAA issues a Student Pilot certificate, the applicant must first pass a Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) security check, a process that will likely take several weeks. (The FAA says it's going to shoot for an average of not more than 3 weeks.) This is the most fundamental change in the new regulations, but there are other changes as well.

Instead of paper, the new certificate will be a plastic card. This is consistent with other levels of pilot certificates. In 2013, the FAA made invalid the paper certificates for all other levels of pilot privileges. Since March 31st of that year, all pilots holding certificates above the Student Pilot level must have a plastic card. Now, with these new regulations, a Student Pilot must have a plastic card as well.

Converting a Student Pilot certificate to plastic also necessitates some changes in how endorsements are made for a Student Pilot. In the days of a paper certificate, an instructor was required to enter, usually by writing, some endorsements on the Student Pilotís certificate. However, writing something on plastic so that it remains legiable isnít always easy. (Ever try to affix your signature on the back of a plastic credit card without smudging it?) Now, all endorsements are to be entered in the Student Pilotís logbook.

Another change specifies who can accept an application. Before, an applicant for a Student Pilot certificate could apply at either an FAA Field Service District Office (FSDO), seek out a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), or apply with a FAA designated Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) after passing an exam for an FAA medical certificate. With the new regulations, AMEs are no longer authorized to accept a Student Pilot application (nor issue one as they could before). However, the new regulations authorize other persons to accept an application; in addition to a FSDO or a DPE, an Airman Certification Representative (ACR) at a Part 141 flight school, as well as a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), are authorized to accept an application.

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