In 2014, the FAA began implementing its Designee Management System (DMS), a tool designed to standardize and consolidate policies and procedures across all lines of business in aviation safety. Order 8000.95 sets forth a singular method for selecting, appointing and overseeing all administrator representatives, including Designated Mechanic Examiners (DME) and Designated Engineering Representatives (DER). Full DME deployment is expected by September, with DER transitions scheduled for 2020.
The project is in response to a 2004 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report highlighting key weaknesses in designee oversight. GAO recommendations centered on the need for the FAA to improve its control of the program; one of six proffered solutions that called for database enhancements.
The agency responded by developing the all-inclusive DMS, which will replace five separate designee data systems and allow information-sharing across services. The new system will also further the agency’s “risk-based” approach; oversight will be focused on data analysis and performance trends.
While the new order has been around for a while, it was only recently made applicable to a subset of the designee population, since adherence is dependent on DMS deployment. The six-year project began with Designated Airworthiness Representatives-Manufacturing and Designated Manufacturing Inspection Representatives transitions in 2014. The following year, Designated Aviation Medical Examiners were incorporated. This year, the agency is rolling out DMS for Designated Airworthiness Representatives-Maintenance, DMEs and Designated Parachute Rigger Examiners. Remaining designees, including DERs and Designated Pilot Examiners, will change over by 2021.
Even after full deployment, vestiges of past policy will still need reference. For example, DMEs will continue utilizing the General Aviation Airman Designee Handbook (Order 8900.2) for testing procedures specific to mechanic examinations until the language can be incorporated into another order.
One of the largest anticipated benefits is shortened time frames for designee application. “What once could take weeks, months, or even years, is now done in a matter of minutes,” said FAA Flight Standards Service Delegation Program branch manager Jay Kitchens. “Since the new tool automates activities such as candidate vetting, qualified applicants get an immediate response that their application is in the system and available for consideration and appointment by a local office.”
Previously, DME applicants were required to obtain a letter from the local office stating that they qualified for the appointment, make formal application to the National Examiner Board and receive written approval that they had been added to the database of qualified candidates. And all of this correspondance had to be done via snail mail.
In the new system, candidates apply directly in DMS; if all qualifications are met, they receive immediate notification that their application is available for appointment consideration.
Designees with a “good performance history” can expect expedited approvals via an automatic approval process and automated annual renewals.
The new system will provide data on “designee capacity,” that is, whether the supply of designees is adequate, given the local demand. “DMS will allow us to better assess agency need to appoint additional designees, as well as our ability to appropriately oversee and manage them,” says Kitchens.
Once their specific programs are deployed, current designees should expect to receive a unique nine-digit designee number, DMS log-in information, and access to new (electronic!) authorization documentation, dubbed the Certificate Letter of Authority.
According to the GAO, private individuals perform 90% of the FAA’s certification activities through its designee program. As of July, the FAA was managing more than 10,000 designations.