How Do New Flight Students Obtain Credentials?

Here’s what you need to know about obtaining a TSA endorsement and applying for a student pilot certificate.

An instructor and a student preflight a Cessna 152 before a lesson. [Credit: Richard Steiger]

Question: I have just started flight training. I was told that I need to get a TSA endorsement and then a student pilot certificate. That seems like an awful lot of work before I have even touched an airplane—how am I supposed to do this?

Answer: Provided you are a U.S. citizen, the TSA endorsement will be issued by your flight instructor after he or she verifies your citizenship using either an unexpired passport or a combination of your driver's license or state ID card and a birth certificate. If you are a foreign national, the TSA endorsement is a little more complicated. The endorsement goes in your logbook.

(For foreign nationals, details can be found at the Flight Training Security Program.)

To apply for your student pilot certificate, you need to fill out an online application using the FAA's Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) form.

IACRA is the FAA's web-based certification/rating application. It requires the user to come up with a username (email addresses are popular) and a password. Keep it clean, as the person who administers your check ride may not share your sense of humor.

Once you have accessed the system, with the help of your instructor, you will fill in the boxes as required. It is your typical online application, asking for name, address, and place of birth. There is a box that asks for your social security number, and there is an option for "Do not use." As identity theft has grown over the past decade, many pilot applicants opt for "Do not use."

You will be issued a Federal Tracking Number (FTN) that you need to record and keep in a safe place. You will need it for check rides.

You can fill out part of the application yourself, but it is often easiest to do this with your instructor next to you, because the CFI has to verify your driver's license number and that you are English proficient.

Note where it says "carrying of passengers prohibited"—as a student pilot, you are not permitted to take anyone with you in the aircraft. When you are flying with your instructor he or she is not a passenger, but the pilot in command, and you are riding with them as you receive dual instruction.

IACRA is an e-sign document. Once that is completed and submitted to the FAA, you can print out a temporary certificate. You should receive a plastic student pilot certificate in the mail in a few weeks.

Do you have a question about aviation that’s been bugging you? Ask us anything you’ve ever wanted to know about aviation. Our experts in general aviation, flight training, aircraft, avionics, and more may attempt to answer your question in a future article.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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