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I-Team: Congressman Blasts New Pilot's Licenses

A CBS4 I-Team investigation into your safety uncovered the fact that 9 years after the terrorist attacks of 9-11 the federal government still does not issue a photo ID to people who fly airplanes.

I-Team investigator Stephen Stock uncovered the problem that one Congressman calls "astounding" and compares to a "three stooges episode."

From his newly purchased Cessna 172, to Navy jets and Boeing 757's, Jay Rollins has always loved to fly.

Since he became a Navy pilot at twenty-two, Rollins has carried a pilot's license alongside his driver's license wherever he goes.

"This is what they look like now, I've got three of them," said Rollins as he showed off his pilot's licenses.

But there's something distinctly different between a driver's license which almost everyone carries and a pilot's license that enables someone to get behind the stick of an airplane including inside secure perimeters of airports.

And it means the pilot's license appears much more mundane than one might think.

"I had a library card from a public library that looked more sophisticated than my pilot's license did," said former commercial airline pilot Ken Edwards.

Edwards got a new pilot's license when he upgraded to Captain in 2003 and couldn't believe what was on it and what wasn't.

"I kept expecting to get a phone call wanting me to take a picture or to do something to provide a photo," Edwards told the I-Team. "I never received that call. And I got my license in the mail and the only pictures on it were Orville and Wilbur Wright. And they didn't look much like me."

That's right. Although it's become much more rigorous for people who go to the local DMV office to get a driver's license as the government tries to make sure you are who you say you are, that's apparently not the case for someone who wants to fly an airplane.

"In order to be legal you have to carry this (pilot's license) with you plus your medical certificate plus a state approved driver's license or something like that with your picture on it," said Jay Rollins.

I-Team investigator Stephen Stock asked "But if you just show me that ID without a photograph, how do I know that's you?"

"That's a good question for the FAA. That's why you have to have your driver's license with you or something that identifies you with a picture," said Rollins.

According to Federal law, passed in 2004, that's not good enough.

You can read the law by clicking here. The pilot's license provision is in section 4022 on page 86.

According to the law, all pilots' licenses are supposed to quote "...include a photograph of the individual to whom the license is issued..." and " capable of accommodating ...a biometric identifier..."

But right now pilot's licenses don't meet either of those requirements.

"They have a bar code that has less digital items than your credit card," said US Representative John Mica who serves as ranking minority member of the US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

A Republican Congressman from Central Florida, Representative John Mica helped write the law in the days following the 9-11 attacks.

You can read the entire law by clicking here.

"We've issued a card with Wilbur and Orville Wright's picture on it and no biometric measure and spent tens of millions of dollars on the project," said Mica.

That's right. Six years after the law was passed the only thing that the FAA, Homeland Security and TSA came up with is a license that looks official but, in fact, has very little unique indentifying information contained on it.

I-Team investigator Stephen Stock asked Congressman Mica in a satellite interview "How serious is this Congressman?"

"It starts right at the gate when they enter and now," said Mica. "We don't know who the individual is. There's no way to really check. It (the license) doesn't have a photo. It doesn't have a biometric measure. Six years later this is just totally unacceptable."

"It's pretty scary when you think of it," said Congressman Mica.

Mica, who is expected to become chairman of House Transportation Committee when the new Congress is seated in 2011, was so angered by lack of compliance he fired off a letter on October 19, 2010, to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt as well as TSA Administrator John Pistole demanding action.

In the letter Congressman Mica said "It is absolutely astounding that DHS, TSA and FAA could, after six years to implement the Act, still achieve such an incredible level of incompetence. I request an update on FAA's progress implementing section 4022."

You can read the entire letter from Ranking Republican Mica by clicking here.

"It's just beyond the pale that we could build a huge transportation security bureaucracy and homeland security bureaucracy and not come up with a simple identification card for our pilots," said Mica.

I-Team investigator Stephen Stock asked pilot Ken Edwards about all this.

"Does this raise the risk?" asked Stock.

"Absolutely," said Edwards. "Absolutely. In a potential security scenario absolutely especially in General Aviation I think. "

I-Team investigator Stock then put the question to pilot Jay Rollins.

"Wouldn't it be easier just to have a picture on that pilot's license?" asked Stock.

"Well, that's a good question for the FAA," said Rollins. "I don't know why they didn't (do that.) They're going to the trouble to make these holograms they may as well have put a picture on it."

"Unbelievable," said Edwards. "Absolutely unbelievable. I hope it changes soon."

Only after that letter from Mica in October and only after the CBS4 I-Team started asking questions, did the FAA finally announce on Thursday, November 18, 2010, that it was proposing a rules change to comply with that law which had been passed six years ago and require photo and biometric identification on pilot's licenses.

Even with the proposed rules change, there will a time period of public comment on the rule open until February of 2011. Then it is likely there will be hearings and counterproposals on the rule change proposal.

That means, according to Congressman Mica's staff it could be six months to a year before the rules are actually enforced and pictures start going on pilot's licenses.

An FAA spokesperson would not answer questions about why six years after the law passed the FAA only now is beginning to comply with the requirements of that law.

You can read the full statement from TSA by clicking here.

Read the FAA's press release regarding photos on pilot ID's by clicking here. You can also read Congressman Mica's response to the new FAA proposal that was issued Friday, November 19 by clicking here.

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