How to apply
Section 65.91: Inspection Authorization explains how to apply for the IA. The applicant must hold a current A&P certificate and be active in the trade for the two years prior to making application. The applicant must have a fixed base of operation where he can be reached by telephone. The fixed base requirement does not necessary mean the place where he performs the inspections and besides with cell phones an IA can be reached anywhere. The applicant must have the equipment, facilities and inspection data available to him. This rule does not require the IA to own all the data, equipment, etc., just have it available for his use. The applicant must take a written test of 3 hours duration and if the applicant fails, he or she cannot retest for 90 days.
Section 65.92 Duration explains that an IA expires on March 31 of each year, and is effective only when the IA has a current A&P certificate. The IA also ceases to be if the IA no longer has a fixed base of operation, or if the IA is surrendered, suspended, or revoked, or when the IA no longer has a facility, data, or equipment to perform the work.
Section 65.93 Renewal explains that for an IA to renew, he or she must show that for each 90 days the certificate was held, the IA must have done one of the following:
• Performed one annual inspection (total of four per year)
• Performed two major repairs or major alterations (total of eight per year)
An IA can also show that he has done one of the following as basis for renewal:
• Performed or supervised a progressive inspection
• Complete an IA 8-hour refresher course acceptable to the FAA
• Pass an oral exam given by a FAA Inspector
Many IAs believe you can mix and match the requirements in Section 65.93, which is not the case. The most popular renewal option is the 8-hour IA renewal classes given around the country. The least popular is the oral exam. I wonder why?
Section 65.95 Privileges and Limitations explains that an IA can inspect and approve for return to service major repairs and major alterations, perform annual and progressive inspections, present his certificate upon request to the FAA, NTSB or any federal, state or local law enforcement officer. This section requires an IA, who changes his fixed base of operation, to notify the local FSDO in writing before exercising his IA.
What should also be mentioned here is an additional privilege that is not covered by the regulations but is covered by FAA policy. An IA can approve "acceptable" repair data found in AC 43.13-1B Acceptable Techniques and practices, Aircraft Inspection and Repair, as long as the repair data is appropriate and applicable to the repair and not contrary to the manufactures instructions. This policy statement is found on the signature page of AC 43.13-1B.
How to become an IA
First, you have to be eligible for the IA so that means you need to read section 65. 91 and see if you meet the requirements. Okay, that yes/no exercise was bloodless. If you are eligible, the next thing is to get a hold of a FAA document titled: Inspection Authorization Knowledge Test Guide, FAA-8082-11. In another life, it was the AC 65.19G the IA Study Guide. The IA Knowledge Test Guide is presently available on the Internet at http://AFS600.faa.gov/data/knowledgetestguide/faa-g-8082-11.pdf and printing out the 36 pages, or, pick up the test guide at the local FSDO or get a copy from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402-9325.
More than just a test
The Knowledge Test Guide has all the information to prepare to take the test, including additional publications and ACs that help fill in those knowledge gaps. Let me try to make a point: Both you and I know there are plenty of other books, courses, and seminars that advertise that they prepare one to take the IA test. All will pretty much give you all the information needed to pass the test, but passing the IA test does not make you an IA in the real world anymore than passing a state driver’s license gets you ready for the Daytona 500.
Being an IA requires a lot more from an individual than taking a test. IAs must bear the awesome burden of additional duties and responsibilities and make the hard airworthiness decisions that other mechanics are not authorized to make. So, a "cram school" or seminar is always limited to passing the test. Nothing but nothing takes the place of burning the midnight oil, delving into the books, taking practice exams, in short, preparing for the job you will do for the rest of your life.
Before I would take the IA test, I would pay special attention to the regulations called out on the Airworthiness Certificate (Parts 21, 43, and 91). I would also memorize the IA rules. Know the difference between "approved" and "acceptable" data. Know the difference between a Form 337 and a Field Approval. Also, commit to memory Sections 43.9-11-13. Know how ADs are revised, the kinds of AD, and how type certificates and STC figure into the term "airworthy." The additional preparation time will give you the strong self-reliance to make the tough calls that will come your way, instead of the shallow confidence that comes with preparing only to pass a single test.
Okay, you’re prepared. Next, take yourself to the local FSDO, because now you have to prove that you meet the requirements of the rule, which also includes personal identification — so have a driver’s license and your A&P certificate ready. Also, you have to show that the data, such as AD, TC data and spec sheets, manual, etc., is available to you. I remember back in 1972 BC (before computers), that I had to haul 14, three-ring binders of data down to the FSDO. Today, I just shake my head as I watch applicants walk in with a laptop and a couple of CDs.
On to the testing center
With your ID and data availability confirmed, the FAA inspector will have you fill out FAA Form 8610-1 Mechanic Application for Inspection Authorization and he will mark the endorsement block and sign the form. The inspector will then give the name and location of the nearest computer-testing center that, for a fee, will give you the IA test. For the curious among you, a list of all the testing centers can be found on the Internet at http://afs600.faa. gov/data/computertestingsite/allactivesites.pdf.
Next, call the testing center and make an appointment to take the test. Make sure you know what the current fee will be to take the test. If you do not make it to the testing center at the appointed time, you could be charged a cancellation fee. The testing center will have to see some form of ID and your FAA Form 8610-1. You do not have to bring your data with you as it will be provided. You can use test aids like scales, straightedges, non-programmable handheld computers, and printed formulas. However, the handheld computer instruction book is not permitted. And for reasons known only to a few, a dictionary is not allowed.
Whatever happened to the Designated Airworthiness Maintenance Inspector?
Emphasis should still be on training.
I just completed this year's round of IA renewal seminars.
Bill's take on the two-year IA renewal.