One weird thing came to my head
In the ground, Everytime you drive an 91 CRX SIR/Civic Si EM1 or ride an Honda Dirtbike
There is an possibilty of getting busted by the cops waiting in the temporary checkpoints
But what about the air ?
Who will check (Non existant) licenses of DC-3/Bell 47GH pilots ?
Who will check (Non existant) licenses of C208B Grand Caravan Amphibian pilots on the sea ?
Who will check people that flies alone in a Learjet 35 during IFR conditions ? (I know, there are countries that you can do IFR flights alone)
Do you tell your license information to the ATC before the takeoff or there is an another way like authorities requesting flight logs of an C208B etc ?


Just as people can go for quite a while driving without a license before they get caught, there is no certain way to catch somebody who goes flying without a license. There are various ways that it can happen, but none of them are certain.

There was a quip quoted elsewhere referring to the high proportion of unlicensed pilots in Alaska, that supposedly the FAA had a goal of getting at least half of them licensed. I have no idea how much, if any, truth is behind that statement.

On the other hand, just as having a license can make various things you might do with a car easier or possible, there are plenty of instances where having a pilot license is necessary:

  • Renting a plane
  • Buying insurance for a plane you own (without a convincing story of who else would be flying it, at least)
  • A "ramp check" by an FAA inspector
  • Getting a job (from a reputable company, at least) as a pilot

If you file a flight plan for your flight (required for IFR -- mostly, not required but very highly recommended for VFR), part of that is to provide a name for the pilot. But that's it, just a name, not a license number. (Phone number, yes -- so they have somebody to call in case you're overdue so they can see if you simply forgot to close your flight plan.) I don't know how often that info would be checked against any database of current pilots, but the potential would be there. But the ways the FBI would find people in an investigation is wildly different from what's routinely done by Flight Service.

So if Farmer Joe (licensed) owns an airplane & his (unlicensed) brother Fred flies it every now and then from their private dirt strip, the chances of Fred getting caught are probably pretty slight, unless something goes pretty badly wrong. And, depending on Joe and Fred's tolerance for risk, they might be entirely okay with that scenario.

Me personally, there's no *%#@ing way I'd be party to any such arrangement, but I'm probably more cautious than some Alaska bush pilots that way! This thread discusses the consequences for flying without a license.


I've heard of the FAA conducting ramp checks but never experienced it myself.

I've only experienced being checked when there was an accident, and FAA was investigating

I've asked this same question of pilots in the past and gotten rather comical responses, like "as long as you don't crash the faa doesn't care" and things of that sort. Licensing is for knowledge, knowledge leads to safety for you, your passengers and those on the ground and their property. Small craft that don't do much damage don't require the license, part 103 for example


it depends on whether or not your plane carries hull insurance. No insurance underwriter is going to knowingly insure an aircraft given that its owner is unlicensed and pilots the craft. This means that the FAA might not care whether or not you have a license, but your insurance agent almost certainly will.


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