What You Should Know About the New Student Pilot Certificate

New changes to FAA student pilot certificates are coming our way, and although there was an initial display of panic from some members of the flight training community, the new student pilot certificate rule might just be a good thing. Here’s what you need to know about the new rule, which begins April 1st, 2016:

The Details
First, don’t panic. Although students could have a delay in getting their student pilot certificates, it’s not all bad news. Here’s the scoop:

  • Students won’t have to go to the FSDO to get a student pilot certificate. FAA certified flight instructors, designated pilot examiners, Part 141 programs, and the FSDO will be all able to accept and submit applications for student pilot certificates. The student pilot applicant will have to show up in person and bring a photo ID to verify identity.
  • The new student pilot certificate will not expire, which brings it in line with the other certifications.
  • Instructors will no longer have to endorse both the student’s logbook and the student pilot certificate. Only one endorsement will be necessary from now on, which simplifies the process.
  • The student pilot applications will go through some kind of TSA approval process, which, whether we like it or not, should add a layer of security to flight training that we don’t currently have.
  • Student pilots who already have a paper student pilot certificate may continue to use it until it expires, or may choose to obtain a new plastic student pilot certificate from the FAA.

What could possibly go wrong?
Okay, so we know that it won’t be a perfect process, and as with any new process, there are sure to be frustrations involved. The biggest frustration that people foresee is that there will be a delay in the processing of student pilot applications. The FAA says it will process the applications as quickly as possible, but that it could take weeks or even months before the student receives the new plastic pilot certificate in the mail.

This delay in processing will potentially make it impossible for student pilots to solo right when they’re ready to. Some students, especially those in fast-paced flight training programs, will get to the potential solo flight in a matter of days or weeks, and will be left waiting on a student pilot certificate to arrive in the mail. This can be a source of frustration, to be sure.

Finally, should a student pilot applicant be denied a student pilot certificate based on information gleaned from the TSA check, the student will be faced with an appeals process that, as we all know, could take an extended amount of time. This, perhaps, will be the greatest source of frustration for those who may be “flagged” in the system for some reason, but who are otherwise eligible for a student pilot certificate. And perhaps, sadly, we’ll lose a few potential student pilots to yet another lengthy appeals process.

What do you think about the new student pilot application rules? A good thing or bad?