Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Plastic Pilot License

They may be more practical, but some of us miss the paper ones

Still, as I look at my thoroughly distressed-looking ticket, it’s with a twinge of sadness: It has been too long since I got a new rating or endorsement—entirely too long. I’m always nudging others to add color to their lives in the form of additional, diverse flight training, but I don’t take my own advice. And, if I did, what would I add to the short list of ratings/endorsements on the back?

If I could afford it, I’d love to have a type rating for a DC-3. Part of me feels that I’ll never be able to call myself a real aviator if I don’t have a DC-3 type rating. I know it’s illogical, but that’s the way I feel about it.

A multi-engine sea rating would be another bucket list item to go on the ticket. I know I wouldn’t have a single use for such a thing, but as with the Gooney Bird, I just feel that it’s something I should do. However, if I’m going to go that route, I’d like it to be in something with round motors that drip and don’t whine. No turbines or square motors for me. I’d like to do it in a Goose. Or maybe a Twin Beech. Yeah, I know: fat chance that’s going to happen.

I’d also like to see indications on my license that I have an LOA, or whatever they’re using today, that says I’m qualified to fly an F-86. Actually, as I’m prone to say, the F-86 is at the top of my bucket list, and I really don’t care if it shows on my license or not. I just want to fly the airplane, period. Again, fat chance!

In the end, I didn’t really replace my well-worn old license with the fancy new-millennium version. Not physically, anyway. I couldn’t find anything in the regs that said I couldn’t carry the make-believe plastic license and my ratty old one. So, when I flip my wallet open, I’m still looking at a yellowed and sort of disreputable-looking document that grants me flying privileges. The flying credit card is right behind it, doing its best to dull its sheen and round its edges so it looks as if it truly is a pilot’s license.

Budd Davisson is an accomplished aviation writer and photographer, CFII and CFIA, and aircraft owner and builder. He has authored two books and lectured at the Smithsonian and NASA’s Langley Research Center. Visit his website,


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