A notice on July 15th, 2020 has gained some attention and spread throughout the training community. This is a notice of “program policies and procedures for reexamining individuals holding pilot certificates with various ratings who were tested by Michael A. Puehler of Cincinnati, OH.”
The scary part of this 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 Designee’s 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.
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 Designee’s 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.