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FAA behind in license revamp

November 10, 2010
The Daily Mining Gazette

Congress in 2004 ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to develop an aviation license that included the pilot's photo as well as the ability to contain biometric information such as fingerprints or iris scans. It was part of the nation's efforts to prevent further terrorist attacks like those of 9-11.

Six years later, despite efforts by the FAA, Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security, pilot's licenses still lack those features.

Calling it an ''incredible level of incompetence'' on the part of the federal bureaucracy, the top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee wants to know why Congress' mandate has not been carried out.

We think it's a reasonable question. After all, states like Michigan have been able to revamp their driver's licenses in shorter periods of time to comply with security measures such as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., in an interview with the Associated Press, said FAA officials told his staff that the FAA doesn't have conveniently located offices where pilots can have photos taken for licenses, and that the TSA and DHS have yet to decide on criteria for what type of biometric information should be included on pilot's licenses.

However, the law allows the FAA to designate a local authority like a police department or airport to take pilots' photos, and it doesn't mandate what type of biometric data to include in the licenses, only that they have the capability to carry it.

The FAA does require pilots to carry a government-issued photo ID in addition to their pilot's license, but it seems like it would be much more convenient to simply include the photo on the license.

FAA officials now say they plan to propose a regulation later this year to require that pilot licenses include photos. It's about time the federal bureaucracy meets its congressionally mandated obligation to help make our airports more secure.



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