— First appeared in FSANA Flight Training News, July 30, 2020
An FAA notice dated July 15, 2020, has gained some attention and spread throughout the training community. “Reexamination of Airmen Tested by Michael A. Puehler” is a notice of program policies and procedures for reexamining individuals holding pilot certificates with various ratings who were tested by Puehler of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Of particular concern is that the notice highlights the procedures by which the FAA will be notifying individuals who received practical tests administered by this FAA Designee that they in prescribed instances will be required to retest for a rating or certificate for which they already had the “license in hand."
The authority to do this is well documented under Title 49 of the United State Code (49 U.S.C.) §44709 is the authority for the reexamination of a certificated pilot. It states in part that, “The administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration may … reexamine an airmen holding a certificate issued under section 44703 of this title.”
FAA designees are given the “authority to act on behalf of the [FAA] administrator,” but the FAA has the authority to check their actions, and when there is concern that they have not acted in accordance with guidance, regulations, or legal manners, they can act in manners that rescind or require retesting of previously issued ratings and/or certificates. That is what is happening here, it has happened before, and will probably happen again.
Specifically, the FAA most commonly takes actions such as this when it is believed that airmen certificates and/or ratings are being issued under conditions where the airmen examined may not meet experience or proficiency requirements.
FSANA is watching this process and feels it is important for flight training providers to take note of actions such as this.
The FAA actively monitors training and testing trends, survey data, and data points in multiple systems to include but not limited to the IACRA and DMS systems. These data metrics provide feedback from which the FAA evaluates the need for further oversight of designees when there is concern that they are not doing their work in accordance with prescribed procedures. When it is determined that this is the case, a notice such as this may be the result in the worst of cases.
The FAA is not taking actions like this lightly, and recognizes the significant impact it has on the certificate holders and their flight training providers.
In many instances, with further interview of flight training providers, applicants, and even fellow designees in the area, the FAA oversight and additional inspection process finds that “bad actor” DPEs were well known to be cutting checkrides short, not testing all required areas, or worse actions in some cases for a lengthy period of time.
There is a tendency to not report these types of actions, which creates an enabling culture. In some cases, flight training providers have even targeted purposefully using “the examiner that doesn’t fail anyone” or “the examiner who gives really short tests” thinking that just having as many applicants pass is the best outcome.
Passing applicants is not the best outcome in these cases. Especially when problems with the certification process are found and then certificate holders need to be retested.
As a training community, we all strive to have great pass rates, but the best way to do that is through good training that is then validated by professional testing processes that are FAA regulated. Any less than this undermines safety, undermines the validity of those certificate holders that were properly trained and tested, and those who correctly earned the certificates and/or ratings they hold.
The flight training community can help make sure this is the case by not trying to take advantage of weak testing processes. The trainers, the testers, and the applicants all doing their part in preparing and testing properly is the best way to ensure safety and equitable testing through our system. The FAA works hard to find any bad actors, and fortunately they are few and far between, but some do go unchecked for too long, even if that is a short period of time.
FSANA supports FAA efforts to ensure that designees are doing their jobs properly, and feels responsibility to help provide feedback to the FAA if any of our members feel there are not fully compliant tests being administered.
At the request of the FSANA lead industry working group, a dedicated designee questions email address was established several years ago. If you have concerns that you feel uncomfortable sharing with your local FAA office, please share them directly with the national designee oversight team at: Designee-Questions-Comments-Concerns@faa.gov.
The FAA has committed to anonymity in this feedback from the national level. If you are concerned that even that is too closely associated with your feedback or concerns, feel free to share them directly with FSANA at INFO@FSANA.COM or call our office 610-791-4359 and FSANA staff can pass along concerns.
Most flight training providers know when a bad test or series of them is taking place. If you are an operator who thinks it is happening, put a stop to it so you do not end up with customers experiencing a notice like this potentially even many years later.