Saturday, October 4, 2008


Pilot and flight instructor certificates are issued by the FAA upon satisfactory completion of required knowledge and practical tests. The administration of these tests is an FAA responsibility normally carried out at the FSDO level by FSDO inspectors. The FAA, however, being a U.S. government agency, has limited resources and must prioritize its responsibilities. The agency’s highest priority is the surveillance of certificated air carriers, with the certification of airmen (including pilots and flight instructors) having a lower priority.

In order to satisfy the public need for pilot testing and certification services, the FAAdelegates certain of these responsibilities, as the need arises, to private individuals who are not FAA employees. A designated pilot examiner (DPE) is a private citizen who is designated as a representative of the FAAAdministrator to perform specific (but limited) pilot certification tasks on behalf of the FAA, and may charge a reasonable fee for doing so. Generally, a DPE’s authority is limited to accepting applications and conducting practical tests leading to the issuance of specific pilot certificates and/or ratings. A DPE operates under the direct supervision of the FSDO that holds the examiner’s designation file. A FSDO inspector is assigned to monitor the DPE’s certification activities. Normally, the DPE is authorized to conduct these activities only within the designating FSDO’s jurisdictional area.

The FAA selects only highly qualified individuals to be designated pilot examiners. These individuals must have good industry reputations for professionalism, high integrity, a demonstrated willingness to serve the public, and adhere to FAA policies and procedures in certification matters. A designated pilot examiner is expected to administer practical tests with the same degree of professionalism, using the same methods, procedures, and standards as an FAA aviation safety inspector. It should be remembered, however, that a DPE is not an FAA aviation safety inspector. A DPE cannot initiate enforcement action, investigate accidents, or perform surveillance activities on behalf of the FAA. However, the majority of FAApractical tests at the recreational, private, and commercial pilot level Figure 1-1. FAA FSDO. are administered by FAA designated pilot examiners.

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