Who Wants to be DOM? There are some downsides

As those in the air carrier business know, FAA operations people must approve most management positions. FAR 135 and 121 are both covered with management job qualification requirements.


The case: The senior maintenance inspector at a small Part 135 air carrier, soon to be Part 121, was pleased when he was approached and asked to take on the duties of the director of maintenance (DOM). This was a step up for him and he thought that it could lead to bigger things. He immediately accepted. He had to qualify under the general requirements of the FAR and be approved by the operations inspector. He was approved on a temporary basis for the position. It did not last long however.

As those in the air carrier business know, FAA operations people must approve most management positions. FAR 135 and 121 are both covered with management job qualification requirements. Many times approval for the position can be probationary pending a review of qualifications and background. Most of the positions are considered temporary until some exposure to the position is completed. It is not rare for somebody in the job to be denied continued approval. This happened to a man who spoke with me recently. He believed that the FAA operations inspector did not care for his management style and so contrived a plan to deny him the position based on a lack of qualification. Unfortunately there is little that can be done under these circumstances. The man talked of suing somebody or taking the case "upstairs" to superiors in the FAA. I urged him to concentrate on the qualification issue at the local level and if not satisfied seek further review by way of a request for deviation from the rules. He was not a happy camper.

Deviation authority

The FAR provides for deviations from the strict qualification rules where a certificate holder requests one. When the candidate does not meet the airman experience requirements, or supervisory background he still can be appointed provided he has comparable experience and can effectively perform the functions of the position. So the man could have his company petition the manager of the Air Transportation Division in FAA headquarters to review his comparable qualifications.

Comparable means suitable for comparison; equivalent or similar. Needless to say, no matter how good the comparative experience, the FAA in Washington can still turn you down . . . there is no appeal. Even after approving a deviation the Administrator can, at any time, terminate a grant of deviation authority.

The part-time DOM

Many qualified technicians accept DOM positions at Part 135 certificate holders on a part-time basis and hold regular full-time positions with an FBO or repair station. You should consider an offer of this type with some careful scrutiny. There are several pitfalls attached. Firstly, and most importantly, you will have greater FAA certificate sanction exposure assuming you're approved for the position.

Consider the case of the DOM who works for a small air carrier. If the carrier's certificate should for some reason be suspended or revoked your employment prospects for the future may be affected. Take a look at FAR 135.13(b)1, 2: "The Administrator may deny any applicant a certificate under this Part if the Administrator finds (2) that a person who was employed in a similar position to . . . director of maintenance . . . or who has exercised control with respect to any ATCO operating certificate holder, air carrier, or commercial operator, whose operating certificate has been revoked, will be employed in any of those positions or a similar position, or will be in control of or have a substantial ownership interest in the applicant, and that person's employment or control contributed materially to the reasons for revoking that certificate."

The words are somewhat laborious but the gist is that if you are tainted by conduct that results in a sanction you will have difficulty finding employment with another air carrier as a DOM or serving in any other management position. The reason being that you could be responsible for a delay or denial in issuance of an air carrier certificate because of your tainted background.

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