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If You Are Ready to Test For Your A&P...

...you might want to take your tests sooner rather than later! There have been some significant changes to FAA Order 8900.2A which covers Designated Mechanic Examiners ­(DMEs) and the Performance Test Standards (PTS) DMEs are required to test to. These changes will affect the practical tests of the mechanic exams and are going to take effect October 1st for current DMEs. DMEs who are newly appointed before October 1 will need to meet the new requirement once they receive their designation, even if it is before the October 1 date. Several DMEs and industry professionals have told us this will negatively affect the industry! I have even heard that some DMEs are resigning their designation knowing they can’t meet the new requirements.

I’m not a DME, nor do I play one on TV. As of this writing, it has only been two weeks since we learned of these changes. Here is a brief overview of what have learned so far.

How will it affect DMEs?

The test bank of possible practical projects DMEs must administer to applicants has increased from 68 to 681. When a DME submits a candidate’s information to the FAA, a random test is generated dictating those projects out of the pool of 681 that will be administered to that particular candidate.

The difficult thing for DMEs is that they now need to have all of the equipment and manuals to cover all of the potential 681 projects in the PTS because they don’t know which random projects will be generated for any given candidate. Once a test is generated for an applicant, that test MUST be administered to them. The DME must prepare a practical test based on those projects that are generated for the specific applicant.

That doesn’t seem too difficult until you start to look at some of the performance test standards. Powerplant test standard L6 says “Check a magneto on a test bench.” O8 says “Check a turbocharger for operation.” J2 says “Replace an engine-driven generator or alternator.) H8 says “Remove, inspect, and/or install turbine engine exhaust gas temperature (EGT) harness.” B10 states “Perform turbine engine inlet guide vane and compressor blade inspection. Do you get the point?  If these were some of the random test standards that were generated for an individual’s powerplant test, think about the equipment the DME would need to have on hand to administer that test. “It is absurd to think that an independent DME that has a typical fixed base of operation like me can meet that criteria!” one DME told us under condition of anonymity.

How will it affect A&P candidates?

The good news: There will only be 22 practical test standards generated for a candidate testing for airframe and powerplant (less for just an airframe or powerplant). This is down from a previous average of 44 test standards.

The bad news: Each test standard will be more difficult. Even though there are fewer test standards, the intensity of those projects will be higher than before. I quickly understood this once I started looking at some of the performance test standards.

The worst news: One word — retesting. Before, if a candidate failed a particular test standard, he or she had to schedule a re-test to show proficiency in that failed standard. The DME would basically retest on that particular project. Looking at my previous examples on powerplant PTS possibilities, say the candidate failed the last part of his or her powerplant test that required them to check a magneto on a test bench. They would need to schedule a retest to show they can check a magneto on a test bench.

Here’s the same scenario with the new change. The mechanic fails the last part of the practical test requiring them to check a magneto on a test bench. They would need to schedule a retest. A new test will be generated by the FAA for the DME to administer that would require the candidate to check a magneto on a text bench PLUS a whole other set of random practical test questions for the powerplant portion will be administered. If you fail one of those, you retest on that failed standard PLUS a whole other set of random questions. Do you understand how difficult this can be?

How will it affect the industry?

I can easily imagine significantly less A&Ps coming through the pipeline. As it is, some estimate that 40-50 percent of Part 147 school graduates don’t go on to take their A&P tests. They either work in repair stations under supervision of A&Ps or go on to work in other industries. I can see a possibility that this number could increase with the new testing standards.

What are your thoughts? We’d appreciate your feedback!

Thanks for reading!  – Joe Escobar