Saturday, December 10, 2005

Licence Wallets

Every Canadian pilot must be accompanied by three official pieces of paper. There's the medical certificate: printed on a kind of drab beige piece of paper, pre-embossed with lines showing where you fold it into four, to make it wallet-sized. There's the licence itself: the same size and grade of paper as the medical, but blue in colour. All the airplanes and types of flying that a pilot is qualified to do are printed on the front of the licence. And there's the radio operator's certificate, a really cheap bit of white paper that declares our competence to operate an aeronautical radio station.

Most pilots keep these important documents together in a licence wallet, like the thing that cops and FBI agents keep their shields in, to flip open authoritatively. Most licence wallets are black, made of plastic or leather. They are often embossed with the words PILOT LICENCE or COMMERCIAL PILOT LICENCE (I never noticed anyone vain enough to upgrade to one that said AIRLINE TRANSPORT PILOT LICENCE, after getting the ATPL), and inside they have pockets with clear plastic windows so you can see the licence and medical without taking them out of the wallet.

This is actually kind of stupid, for two reasons. One is that the licence and medical are, as mentioned above, both folded into four, along the embossed lines, so in order to actually see that my medical has been renewed, or that I am licenced to fly multi-engine seaplanes, you have to pull the pieces of paper out of the wallet anyway. And it's stupid because, like most plastic-against-printer-ink combinations, the toner from the printing on the documents transfers to the inside of the plastic windows, leaving my licence number permamently legible on the window where I keep my licence, even when the licence has been removed.

As you could guess, other important bits of paper accumulate inside the licence wallet, too. A PPC card, dangerous goods handling certificate, elementary work certification: all the personal documents that any particular operation requires its pilots to hold. And then we add a few personal touches.

Recently, an impromptu "what's in your licence wallet?" session revealed photos of kids, a photo of a former colleague killed on the job, an inspirational poem, a safety maxim, and a spare car key. We laughed at the variety of things we carried around with us, and that prompted me to write this entry.

4 comments:

aasmodeus said...

um, i hope i don't regret asking this, but... is "a safety maxim" a euphemism?

Frank Ch. Eigler said...

I carry my license, medical, etc., in a little pouch nailed to the inside cover of my logbook.

Anoynmous said...

My father kept his "official papers" in a fancy plastic pouch that attached with snaps to a holder inside his airplane. (In addition to his pilot's license and medical certificate, there were also copies of birth certificates for everyone in the family and a copy of my parents' marriage license.) He had worked as chief engineer for a radio station and already had a First Class Radiotelephone license, so he had no need for the "Restricted" license typically granted to pilots.

He had no legal need for one, anyway. He was once almost kept from a flight when a spot check by someone in authority failed to find the expected cheap bit of paper, and the fancier bit of paper in his wallet failed to impress the authority immediately.

Aviatrix said...

I finally answered aasmodeus' question about the safety maxim, here.