While aerial performers wowed crowds and inspired future pilots at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, AOPA’s government affairs team took the opportunity of aviation’s largest annual gathering to advance some of our top advocacy priorities, including helping enact the FAA’s project to reform the designated pilot examiner management system.
Some tangible progress to boost system efficiency may soon become evident online. And a timeline is coming together for several systemwide overhauls recommended to the FAA by an industry working group in June, said Christopher Cooper, AOPA senior director of regulatory affairs, who led a subcommittee of the working group.
Industry and the FAA are counting on the upgraded designee locator search page to help fill gaps in the geographic deployment of approximately 900 DPEs. Right now a patch is helping: In October 2018 the FAA waived geographic constraints on DPEs’ testing authority, allowing them to travel more widely to give exams. But a longer-term solution is seen in a national DPE oversight structure that can focus on the selection, training, deployment, and supervision of DPEs, Cooper said.
Given the irregular distribution of DPEs across the system, a related recommendation that has broad support from industry and the FAA is to make mentorship services available to examiners. This innovation would consist of a formal program using experienced DPEs to act as a resource for the FAA, and to advise newly designated DPEs as they begin to interact with the pilot community, Cooper said.
AOPA is also relying on DPE-reform mentors by seeking the guidance and expert advice of members of a new body, the AOPA Designated Pilot Examiner Advisory Board. Convened in December 2020 to help build transparency and fairness into the DPE system, the advisory board met in person at AirVenture, where strategies for future DPE system improvement were discussed, including how to improve the training of applicants and how to ensure adequate deployment of DPEs.