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FCC radio telephone operators permit / radio station license

Some are said to also not know about a HPA endorsement or a current flight review. Which shows that the EASA fight against Nreg isn’t all that bad, given that most of them probably do a decent bit of flying…

tmo
EPKP - Kraków, Poland

Hmmm; EASA-reg pilots have all got 100% perfect paperwork too (irony) In the good old JAA days loads of people had no license because they forgot about the 5 year expiry date and there was no reminder. One FI who did a lot of revalidations estimated that more than 50% of pilots were flying with no license for years. The FAA BFR is a well known requirement, though perhaps not on a 61.75. The EASA FCL move was wholly political. No safety case was ever demonstrated; in the UK the DfT went looking for evidence of reduced safety but the CAA told them there is no such evidence. This FAA radio license thing is a strange thing too, with no safety angle whatsoever.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Yeah, my FI still thinks I’m nuts because I requested he write out the FCL.710 differences training clause for VP, RU, T (turbo)… Thank you, EuroGA :)

It is amazing how much stuff in GA is indeed done with a “meh” attitude and a shrug, sort of “it was always like this, so why the change?” approach.

But don’t you even dare think of doing any maintenance not requested by your CAMO, that will make the plane turn into scrap. At the club it took us 2 years to convince the maintenance folks they can put in a LED bulb under CS-STAN. Another thing I learned from EuroGA that local people said was rubbish. Go figure…

tmo
EPKP - Kraków, Poland

Peter wrote:

they need one radio license for the aircraft, and a separate radio license for each pilot flying it as PIC

The only place I heard this when I inquired about rental Miami/Bahamas (explicitly listed in their paper checklist) but even then I did not get a clear answer if this is applicable when flying on piggyback apart from “it is better to get one but I never asked to show it in Bahamas”

Obviously, I don’t see how this applies on UK airspace as long as you have paid your RT due to Ofcom/CAA

ESSEX, United Kingdom

It is an interesting point.

The aircraft needs its own FAA radio license regardless of the PIC’s licensing situation.

In the UK, if you have a UK issued PPL or NPPL, or LAPL, AFAIK, you can fly an N-reg under FAR 61.3 and it is interesting whether the FAA pilot radio license is still required.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

It is my understanding that the need for an Operator License depends on which license one is using. The FAA one needs the FCC paper, my Polish CAA (EASA) one needs the Polish radio operator’s license. If the UK CAA issued license doesn’t need an OFCOM radio operator’s license, none is neded. When flying under CFR 61.3 one doesn’t need to show a FAA license if one is held.

I recall reading that the Radio Operator permit is a ITU (International Communication Union?) or similar international body requirement, the FAA doesn’t require one if flying only in the US.

tmo
EPKP - Kraków, Poland

Peter wrote:

This FAA radio license thing is a strange thing too, with no safety angle whatsoever.

Actually, it’s an FCC radio licence. Take a look at the licence and see if you can find “FAA” on it anywhere.

Same applies to the aircraft radio licence. The word “FAA” is next to “FCC” in the registration box only because the licence is associated with an FAA-registered aircraft. But it’s an FCC licence. The ITU part is right because the FCC is the ITU representative body for the US.

LSZK, Switzerland
“What is the practical significance of this difference [between the radiotelephone operator permit (restricted) and the radiotelephone operator permit (restricted)–limited use]?”

An applicant eligible for employment in the US may apply to the Commission for a radiotelephone operator permit (restricted). Otherwise the applicant must have been issued a pilot certificate or US radio station licence. In the case of a non-US pilot certificate there must be a reciprocal measure applied in the state of issue. See statute at 47 USC 303(l) and corresponding regulation at 47 CFR 13.9. In the second case the operator permit “is valid only for the operation of radio stations for which that person is the station licensee.” 47 CFR 13.9(e). The Privacy Act of 1974 (link) does not appear to cover US non-citizen nationals, or aliens unless admitted for lawful permanent residence. 47 CFR 0.551.

Note the statute refers to eligibility for employment in the US which differs from the interpretation cited by Rwy20 in post 38. That interpretation refers to non-resident aliens which is surely incorrect. An example of a non-resident alien eligible for employment in US is a Canadian citizen admitted to the US under the TN visa class to engage in, for example, Specialty Air Services within the scope of cross-border trade in services pursuant to NAFTA (1, 2).

The holder of a US radiotelephone operator certificate is classified as a “commercial radio operator.” The word “commercial” doesn’t appear in the Radio Regulations of the International Telecommunication Union. There have been numerous well-documented unsuccessful challenges to FAA authority over the years by pilots arguing that the federal government lacks power to regulate intrastate flying. The courts have consistently held that the interstate commerce clause in the US Constitution gives the Congress power to regulate this based on it affecting the safety of interstate and foreign (US) flights. The first section of the Communications Act of 1934, as currently codified at 47 USC 151, invokes this and other US Constitution clauses:

For the purpose of regulating interstate and foreign commerce in
communication by wire and radio […], for the purpose of the national
defense, for the purpose of promoting safety of life and property […],
and for the purpose of securing a more effective execution of this
policy […], there is created a commission to be known as the “Federal
Communications Commission”, which shall […]

This may explain the connection between eligibility for employment in the US and basis for the Commission’s powers and duties. For context it may help to consider the citizenship requirements made for pilot certificate applicants when the Communications Act first took effect.

Commercial and airline transport pilots have traditionally been restricted to US citizens or aliens whose country of citizenship granted reciprocal privileges to US citizens. Here is an example from the Air Commerce Regulations of 1 Jun 1928 made pursuant to the Air Commerce Act of 1926. These were the forerunner of the Civil Air Regulations which were later largely subsumed into title 14 of the CFR.

Air Commerce Regulations (1 Jun 1928), Ch. 5. (link).
Sec. 49. Character, Age, and Citizenship Qualifications.
An applicant for a pilot’s license must be of good moral char-
acter. The minimum age requirements are 16 years for private
pilots and 18 years for industrial, limited commercial, and transport
pilots. A private pilot may be a citizen of any country. An in-
dustrial, limited commercial, or transport pilot must be (1) a citizen
of the United States, or (2) a citizen of a foreign country which
grants reciprocal commercial-pilot privileges to citizens of the United
States on equal terms and conditions with citizens of such foreign
country, or (3) an alien who has filed his declaration of intention
to become a citizen of the United States and advises the Secretary
of Commerce of the serial number of such declaration, the date
thereof, and the court in which filed. He must diligently and suc-
cessfully prosecute the naturalization proceedings under penalty of
the revocation of his pilot’s license and from time to time must keep
the Secretary of Commerce advised of the status of such proceedings.

The Air Commerce Regulations were renamed the Civil Air Regulations when the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 was adopted. Chapter 5 on pilot certificates, called ratings at that time, was superseded in the new regulations by Chapter 20. This would later be renamed Part 20. Airline pilot certification requirements were handled in the next chapter (part). In these new regulations the earlier section 49 requirement was preserved:

2 FR 2356 (30 Sep 1937). (link).
20.13. Limited-Commercial Pilot Rating: To be eligible for
a limited-commercial pilot rating, an applicant shall comply
with the following minimum requirements:
[…]
20.132. Citizenship—Applicant shall be
20.1320 (a). A citizen of the United States, or
20.1321 (b). A citizen of a foreign country which grants
reciprocal commercial pilot privileges to citizens of the
United States on equal terms and conditions with citizens
of such foreign country, Or
20.1322 (c). An alien who has filed his declaration of
intention to become a citizen of the United States and notifies
the Secretary of the serial number of such declaration and
of the date thereof and of the court in which it is filed;
provided, that the certificate of competency is, in such case,
subject to revocation if the holder does not from time to
time keep the Secretary advised of the status of the
proceedings in court and does not diligently and successfully
prosecute them and become admitted as a citizen.
[…]

The same requirement applied to the commercial pilot ‘rating’ and the airline pilot ‘competency rating’ as then called. As in 1928 student, solo, and private pilots could be of any nationality: “20.102. Citizenship—Applicant may be a citizen of any nationality.” The solo and limited-commercial pilot certificates were eliminated on 1 May 1940 (5 FR 676 of 15 Feb 1940) ceasing to be valid one and two years later respectively. Section 20.142 in the new Part 20, cf 5 FR 678, retained the same citizenship requirement as before for commercial applicants. Even the aircraft dispatcher certificate around this time imposed the same citizenship requirement as for commercial pilots (CAR 27.12, cf 5 FR 1761 of 16 May 1940). Curiously, mechanics could be of any nationality although this was probably a consequence of their shortage considering the surge in flying training under the Civilian Pilot Training Program (*) (renamed CAA War Training Service in late 1942). The history of that programme is reviewed in Pisano, D. (2001). To Fill the Skies with Pilots: The Civilian Pilot Training Program, 1939–1946. (link).

During the war the citizenship criteria were amended effective 6 Feb 1942 (7 FR 988 of 14 Feb 1942) to require unquestionable loyalty in applicants. For student and private pilots:

§ 20.102 Citizenship. Applicant shall
be:
(a) A citizen of and of unquestionable
loyalty to the United States, or
(b) A person who is in sympathy with
the objectives of the United States and
who is a trustworthy citizen of a friendly
foreign government not under the domi-
nation of or associated with any govern-
ment with which the United States is at
war.

For commercial pilot certificate applicants:

§ 20.142 Citizenship. Applicant shall
be:
(a) A citizen of and of unquestionable
loyalty to the United States, or
(b) A person who is in sympathy with
the objectives of the United States and
who is a trustworthy citizen of a friendly
foreign government not under the domi-
nation of or associated with any govern-
ment with which the United States is
at war and which government grants re-
ciprocal commercial pilot privileges to
citizens of the United States on equal
terms and conditions with citizens of such
foreign government.

CAR 21.12 contained an identical provision for the airline transport pilot certificate.

Effective 1 Jul 1945, CARs 20.02 and 20.21 (10 FR 5060 of 8 May 1945) for student and private pilot applicants were reworded:

§ 20.02 Citizenship. Applicant shall
be a loyal citizen of the United States or
of a friendly foreign government not
under the domination of or associated
with any government with which the
United States is at war. (Wartime regu-
lation to be revised when conditions
permit.

While CAR 20.31 (10 FR 5061) was relaxed for commercial pilot applicants:

§ 20.31 Citizenship. Applicant shall
be a loyal citizen of the United States or
of a friendly foreign government not
under the domination of or associated
with any government with which the
United States is at war and which gov-
ernment grants reciprocal commercial
pilot privileges to citizens of the United
States on equal terms and conditions
with citizens of such foreign government.
A certificate may be issued to an appli-
cant who is a citizen of a friendlly foreign
government which does not grant recip-
rocal privileges, but the effectiveness of
such certificate shall in any event termi-
nate 6 months after the war and may be
terminated by the Administrator at any
time without notice.

The final sentence in CAR 20.31 was repealed with effect from 11 Jun 1946 (11 FR 6583 of 15 Jun 1946).

Part 20 of the CARs is not contained in the FAA RGL and I have not examined the Federal Register to determine when these citizenship requirements were fully relaxed. Anyone interested can start with this search string at govinfo.gov modifying the date range as required (link).

The FAA RGL contains a post-war Civil Aeronautics Manual dated 1 Nov 1959 which makes two pertinent references to citizenship. First is section 20.12 taking account of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (for those in possession of the extremely useful early UN Travel Documents):

“20.12 Citizenship. An applicant for a
pilot or flight instructor certificate may be a
citizen of any country or a person without
nationality.

Second, the addendum includes a copy of the preamble to a Part 20 amendment done 23 Aug 1956 (21 FR 6501 of 29 Aug 1956) as “General Revision Part 20” which states:

The following changes and additions have been incorporated in the certification and rating requirements:
1. General. (a) The present private, commercial, and instructor “ratings” have been changed to private, commercial, and instructor “certificates” to conform more closely with common usage.
(b) Since Part 20 no longer contains any citizenship requirements, the provisions which limit the duration of certificates to 12 months for non-citizens have been deleted.
[…]

Therefore, between 1946 and 1956 the citizenship conditions applicable to commercial and airline transport pilots was abolished and aligned with those for private pilots. It appears the citizenship requirements for radio operators and commercial and airline pilots were once similar and the legislation has separately evolved. For general interest some unrelated history on the evolution of 14 CFR 61.75 may be found in Amendment 20-6 of 18 Sep 1958 (23 FR 6374 of 20 Aug 1958).

Bear in mind it took ICAO over a decade to settle the question of the legal status of the aircraft and ensuing convention was not convened until as late as 1963. See Wikipedia article on the Tokyo Convention.

Ibra wrote:

“The FCC [restricted radiotelephone operator] permit is separate and not attched to an FAA standalone [airman] certificate, so you explicitly need a separate piece of paper but how does that work when you fly on a national licence? or piggypack? or if you have a national rt paper?”

Article 37 of the ITU Radio Regulations makes general provisions for certification of aircraft station operators.

No. 37.1: The service of every aircraft station and every aircraft earth station shall be
controlled by an operator holding a certificate issued or recognized by the government to which the
station is subject. Provided the station is so controlled, other persons besides the holder of the
certificate may use the radiotelephone equipment.

My emphasis. The operator of an aircraft station licensed by FCC must hold a commercial radio operator permit or license (sic) except to “[o]perate a VHF telephony transmitter providing domestic service or used on domestic flights.” 47 CFR 87.89. The exception is consistent with provisions 37.4 and 37.5 in the ITU RRs for transmitting on channels not assigned for international use in the VHF band. It is not clear whether section 87.89 may be satisfied by a non-US operator certificate. The trouble with this interpretation is that Peter for example could operate his US aircraft radio in UK using an Industry Canada restricted operator certificate with aeronautical qualification in compliance with art 149(3)(b) of the UK ANO, albeit not after exit day as a UK resident (link), and with provision 37.1 in the RRs. In fact, numerous articles in the UK Wireless Telegraphy Act are disapplied to foreign aircraft—the article on the secrecy of communication is an example. For an interpretation of 47 CFR 87.89 you could inquire with the Office of the Secretary online (link) or by phone—query the directory (link) for Marlene Dortch or Jason Lewis.

The converse scenario—operation of a non-US aircraft station in the US—is addressed in 47 CFR 87.191. It requires, inter alia, that the “flight crew is provided with a radio operator license of the proper class, issued or recognized by the State in which the aircraft is registered …” corresponding to provision no. 37.1 in the RRs. For aircraft other than gliders and excepting persons undergoing training on a UK-registered aircraft the UK ANO at article 139, with territorial application to UK Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, requires the aircraft station operator to hold an appropriate licence granted or rendered valid under the Order. The only article that appears to render a foreign certificate valid is art 150 whose title starts off promisingly with “… deeming a non-United Kingdom radiotelephony licence valid for any aircraft.” However, in para 3 the foreign certificate is only deemed to be valid in respect of non-EASA aircraft registered in UK while para 4 imposes the condition that the flight is not for the purpose of commercial air transport or public transport. So much for flying a UK-registered EASA aircraft internationally with a non-UK Part-FCL licence when no UK FRTOL is held. The radio operator equivalent of the automatic validation of licences by states party to a formal agreement under common licensing regulation (Amendment 174 to ICAO Annex 1) appears not to have been developed.

Ibra wrote:

“A similar discussion to “can’t fly instrument on IMCr as FAR asks to have an FAA IR” :)"

The FAA doesn’t appear to care about this distinction when the flight occurs in the state issuing the sub-ICAO rating. See the interpretation given 15 Jun 2015 to Cliff Whittaker (UK CAA SRG) by Lorelei Peter, Deputy Assistant Chief Counsel for Regulations. Para 2:

A “sub-ICAO” pilot license, as you describe it, is a pilot
license issued by the UK and therefore meets the FAA’s regulatory requirement. Under§
61.3(a)(l)(v), it is immaterial whether the pilot license of the foreign country where the US
registered aircraft is operated meets ICAO standards, provided it is only operated within that
country.

Rwy20 wrote:

“Wouldn’t you use the radio operator permit of that national licence in that case, not requiring a separate FCC one?”

This requires a suitable interpretation of 47 CFR 87.89 as discussed.

London

That’s a lot of background!

tmo wrote:

I recall reading that the Radio Operator permit is a ITU (International Communication Union?) or similar international body requirement, the FAA doesn’t require one if flying only in the US

Yes, I remember when the US dropped the requirement for FCC licenses and permits within the US, it was maybe 35 or 40 years ago? My father had them. Now a US based pilot/plane is supposed to have them only to fly outside of the US (e.g. Canada and Mexico) otherwise it’s a non-issue. The international requirement is apparently policed by U.S. customs upon re-entry. I have never personally heard of any US enforcement but I could be uninformed.

The most commonly mentioned issue for N-registered planes flying outside the US is 12 inch high N-numbers which many planes do not have – mine are 3 inches high.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 12 Nov 15:02

That took effect on 8 Mar 1985. Proposed and final rules respectively in 49 FR 31734 of 8 Aug 1984 (pdf link) and 50 FR 5590 of 11 Feb 1985 (pdf link).

Canada dispensed with aircraft radio licences in Apr 1999 for domestic flights although maximum output power is half that allowed under FCC regulations. Since 1951 there’s been a treaty between US and Canada on the mutual recognition of radio operator certificates (link) so it’s a wonder why US CBP bothers.

London
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