How do I renew an old and expired pilot’s license?

Paul, one of the bloggers on, was recently asked a question by a reader that has no doubt crossed the mind of many one-time pilots:

I stopped flying over 20 years ago and would like to start again. What do I need to do to get reissued my license?

To begin his answer, Paul noted that there has been some “really neat advances in technology since 1989, especially in avionics.” This of course is putting it mildly as he is quick to add that “if you get the chance to fly a newer airplane, it’ll blow your socks off!”

Paul then answers the reader’s question by pointing out that if you are a USA based piloted, there are a couple of different federal aviation regulations that pertain to renewing an old pilot license:

    1. § 61.19 Duration of pilot and instructor certificates
    2. § 61.2 Exercise of Privilege
    3. § 61.23 Medical certificates: Requirement and duration.
    4. § 61.56 Flight Review
    5. § 61.57 Recent Flight Experience : Pilot in command

He then goes into some detail about each of these regulations and then he comes up with a plan-of-action to get his reader back in the cockpit. This plan-of-action included:

    1. Call an Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) and schedule an appointment for obtaining your FAA medical certificate. 
    2. Once you have a current medical certificate in hand, call a CFI and schedule a biennial flight review (BFR).  
    3. Apply for your new plastic certificate.

Of course and USA regulations aside, the key takeaways for non-USA based pilots is to first determine what the applicable regulations are and then to come up with a plan of action that takes those regulations into account. With this approach, you will soon determine just how difficult it will be to get back into the cockpit again.

6 Responses to How do I renew an old and expired pilot’s license?

  1. Kendall R Dance April 12, 2011 at 18:39 #

    Hi I done my licence in 1981 in richardsbay South Africa and would like to reaquire my licence,my old licencs expired in 1983 and have not flowen again,what do i have to do to renew it,do i have to go back to South Africa and do it there or can I do it here in the USA

    regards Ken Dance

  2. prem July 29, 2011 at 17:29 #

    hi, kendall…i have the same problem..i need to do bi-annual flight in the u.s.a….lookin for a south african based flight instructor…who can do a flight review

  3. David Barr February 4, 2012 at 01:22 #

    Since when do US pilot's licenses expire? My license, issued back in the early 70's, does not have an expiration date. It's always been my understanding that a license does NOT expire, it comes down to currency requirements and a current medical. Please comment.

    • George A. Malnar July 10, 2017 at 20:24 #

      Hi, I have the same issue, For my records I would like to get a copy of my Private Pilots License. I was certified in late 60’s. Hammond, La. I am retired from military.

  4. David Barr February 4, 2012 at 18:33 #

    Please disregard my previous comment. I have not flown in a few years and was not aware that the FAA had declared my "old paper" certificate invalid.

  5. Tim Riley November 10, 2017 at 15:48 #

    All I want to do is get my certificate back I lost the paper certificate that say’s you have your private pilots license. I can’t believe what you have to go through just to get an answer. I can get my FAA Physical later once I have the license again. I was told it was good for life. This will motivate me to get the FAA Physical exam. I just want the license back, I’m going to mail the $2.00 check and see what happens. Once I have it, it will motivate me to get back into it. I got my license in the 70’s and am 64 years old now but would love to get back into flying. I flew in New England and in California the Cherokee 180 was my favorite plane.

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