Who Knew: 60-Month Student Pilot Ticket?

By Scott Spangler on June 26th, 2011

Am I the only one who missed the news in July 2010 that the FAA nearly doubled the life of a student pilot certificate (and the third-class medical certificate) for those 40 and younger, from 36 months to 60 months?

This discovery came with a question from JetWhine Publisher Rob Mark. He sent a link to the FAA Certificated Pilots 1929-2011 page on the AOPA website and asked, “Something weird about student starts here. Are they adding them all together?”

The table showed 72,280 active student tickets in 2009 and 119,119 in 2010, with an estimated 115,000 in 2011. The fine print told of the ticket’s new lifespan and said it was behind the significant increase in the student number. At first glance it seems like good news, until you see the 4,119 decline in the 2011 student estimate.

2010 Cert Issue

A more accurate—and telling—number  is found on the FAA website,  on Table 17 of the US Civil Airmen Statistics: Original Airmen Certificates Issued 2001-2010, a section of which is shown above. Original certificates issued is aviation’s birthrate, the number of newborn pilots joining the family. Look at the number of student, recreational, sport, and private tickets issued. The story they tell is not good for aviation’s future. Given the economy, anyone want to guess what the 2011 numbers will look like?

Missing news of the student certificate change was as vexing as the numbers. It would have grabbed my attention in any of the dozen or so aviation e-newsgrams to which I subscribe. Maybe their editors didn’t feel this was newsworthy, or they didn’t take the time to read the final rule.

The change, which also affects the third-class medical for those 40 and younger, was buried in the final rule that revised “Pilot, Flight Instructor, and Pilot School Certification” in Part 61, 91, 141, and took effect on October 20, 2009. See 61.19(b).

A Google search of “student pilot certificate” + “60 month” turned up eight hits. After looking at them, maybe I’m not the only one who missed the news. On the Pilots of American Message Board, BillTIZ was the only one who picked up on it, and noted that the FSDO wasn’t aware of the change either because it was issuing a non-medical student certificate with a 24-month lifespan.

There was a similar discussion on the StudentPilot.com Message Board, as part of a discussion on the trials and tribulations people must endure to become pilots. Pilot Medical Solutions reported the change to the third-class medical, but not the student ticket. And that is pretty much how the rest of the hits reported the change.

Upping the student ticket’s lifespan for those 40 and younger can’t hurt, but aside from the initial bump to the number of active certificates, I doubt it will have little affect on the declining pilot population. Few people today have the stoic will to withstand the rigors of flight training for two years, let alone five. –Scott Spangler

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10 Responses to “Who Knew: 60-Month Student Pilot Ticket?”

  1. Canuk Says:

    I think you might be the only one that missed this. It was all over the aviation-related news.

    http://www.aopa.org/flightplanning/articles/2008/080723medical.html

  2. Bob McDonand Says:

    I agree with Mr.Spangler ! I’ve taught flying for 18+ years….. and it’s so true that so few have the “STOIC WILL” to chase a dream. Aviation is not for the timid of heart, nor for those lacking a superb work ethic. This makes me very sad,as I was one of those little boys who built model airplanes and flew kites. My hero’s flew airplanes.

  3. Dave Says:

    Wish that I would have had this advantage when I started to fly in the late 50’s. In the midst of my first attempt I was drafted and had to start all over, medical and all after 2 years. Have people become more “supermen” than in the 1950’s? Or is the FAA behind the power curve and suddenly realizing that no matter how often you get a medical certificate you can still drop dead. I read where glider pilots and balloon pilots have no more statistical medical problems than those who get examined every 6 months for Class I.

  4. Student Pilot Certificate Extension | High Altitude Flying Club Says:

    […] has the story here. This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← Fair St. Louis […]

  5. evans gauthier Says:

    I didn’t miss the announcement last summer but felt it should have been called the
    “Youth Student Pilot Certificate” !

  6. Dave Says:

    Just wait until those student pilots get their private license, and then their commercial and then maybe instrument and maybe ATR. And they will get older and all of a sudden they will have to jump through hoops like crazy to maintain their medicals. Not only that but it will get to be a hassle that will make them give up just like a number of people I know have done. I also long ago got tired of the hassle and just quit. Shortage of pilots? No kidding.

  7. 3rd Class Medical - SI Says:

    Doing away with the 3rd Class Medical makes more sense, and would likely do more to help general aviation.
    At the very least they should make the SI requirements more reasonable. The hassle and costs of tests, etc. every year to get one are daunting and cause many to just quit.
    If a person with a driver’s license can be a Sport Pilot or drive an SUV 70mph down an interstate why aren’t they just as safe flying an Archer or Skyhawk?

  8. Rodney Hall Says:

    So are they going to extend the medical for people over 40? In my opinion they would do well to have one medical exam for a student to start just to make sure there are no factors that would become dangerous when they fly and then either eliminate the 3rd class or extend it to 5 years. There are also other alternatives such as requiring it for only those with certian ratings or licenses i.e complex aircraft, commercial or twins, those likely to fly a lot of IFR or high enough to encounter Hypoxia. I think it should be eliminated for fixed gear, fixed pitch with a maximum of 4 seats or some MTOW. Maybe reclass light sport as anything less than 2000lbs. There are lots of options.

  9. Rodney Hall Says:

    Just one more observation: If you got your medical the day before you turned 40, say July 6 2011, you wouldn’t need to get it renewed for 5 years but if you wait until one day after your birthday, say July 8 2011, you would need TWO MORE medicals July 31 2013 and July 31 2015 before the first persons would have expired on July 31 2016. When are thay going to expand the time for those over 40?

  10. Dave Says:

    I read in a pub called Fly Low, an article by a flight instructor, about Sport Pilot and also about not going to an AME if you think you won’t pass. He said that “self certification” is the rule and if you know you could not pass a 3rd class exam YOU ARE NOT LEGAL TO FLY SPORT PILOT. So, there we have it. The FAA screwed us on this deal when it was SUPPOSED to be a way out for marginal and senior citizens to fly. But if you have an incident and they find out you had some horrible medical problem (like a cold or whatever) then you have a serious violation. The FAA is much like the BATF: out to squelch as much activity as possible. I think there will be a LOT of Sport Pilots flying illegally.
    Since I don’t want to deal with the FAA enforcement people I will not fly ever again.

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