Before introducing a new aircraft into commercial service, a manufacturer must get certification by the FAA that an aircraft meets aviation safety standards. In programs lasting typically three-to five years, the manufacturers must supply FAA with detailed analyses and produce a prototype of the aircraft. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 was the original statute allowing FAA to delegate activities, as the agency thinks necessary, to approved private people employed by aircraft manufacturers. Although paid by the manufacturers, these designees act as surrogates for FAA in examining aircraft designs, production quality, and airworthiness. The FAA is responsible for overseeing the designees' work and determining whether the designs meet FAA requirements for safety.
The FAA system of delegation includes individual persons who are designated as representatives of FAA, and also organizations as designees that are responsible to entire certification programs.
Chronology of FAA Delegation Program
- First individual designees appointed. Fifty doctors appointed as Aviation Medical Examiners (AME).
- Congress passed legislation specifically considering integration of the private sector into the certification process.
- First Designated Engineering Representatives (DER), Designated Manufacturing Inspection Representatives (DMIR), and Designated Pilot Examiners (DPE) appointed. (Individual designees)
- Congress clarified the language for appointment of designees. One reason given for this clarification was "FAA was clearly in need of private sector expertise to keep pace with the growing aviation industry."
- First Delegation Option Authorization (DOA) appointed. (Delegated organizations for aircraft manufacture)
- The FAA Act of 1958, Section 314, gives the current legislative authority to appoint a wide variety of designees to issue certificates.
- Regulation for this legislation becomes 14 CFR part 183.
- First Designated Alteration Station (DAS) appointed. (Delegated organizations for aircraft modification)
- Scope of work for Designated Manufacturing Inspection Representatives (DMIR) increased
- Congress questioned the ability of the industry to work for FAA. Congressman Jack Brooks said, "... it appears the regulated are regulating themselves. Such a procedure is most unique and requires exceptionally critical oversight." At the same hearing, the Administrator suggested the Act "recognized the practical necessity of utilizing the technical capabilities of the private sector in administering the many complex certification programs required by law." The Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board noted, "... the safety problems involving delegation which have come to our attention have involved such isolated circumstances that, with one exception, it is difficult to apply any generalities to our findings. It is clear, however, that these problems have generally been related to the implementation rather that the concept of the program."
- Special Federal Aviation Regulation number 36 (SFAR36) organizations appointed. (Delegated organizations for aircraft repair)
- The scope of work for DMIRs increased again.
- First Designated Engineering Representatives (DER) for Acoustics appointed. (Individual designees)
- First Designated Airworthiness Representatives (DAR) appointed. (Individual designees)
- Delegated organizations DOA, DAS, and SFAR36 terminated and first new delegated organizations, Organization Designation Authorization (ODA), appointed.
Each time the program expanded, regulatory notification provided justification for the expansion by saying service to the public by designees will be faster than service provided by FAA. Overall, government costs will be reduced. Amendment 8 to 14 CFR part 183 suggests that, "... safety will be enhanced because FAA personnel relieved from tasks accomplished by Designated Airworthiness Representatives will be able to redirect their efforts to other areas affecting safety." The delegation system continues to grow in numbers of designees.