Opportunity Knocking: DARs needed to inspect and certificate light-sport aircraft

April 8, 2005
With the advent of the light-sport aircraft rule becoming effective on Sept. 1, 2004 the FAA is scrambling to certificate approximately 14,000 existing "Fat Ultralights" flying around out there in the vapors.

Attention A&P mechanics! The Federal Aviation Administration is going to need some short-term help to issue Light-Sport Special and Light-Sport experimental special airworthiness certificates.

How come? With the advent of the light-sport aircraft rule becoming effective on Sept. 1, 2004 the FAA is scrambling to certificate approximately 14,000 existing "Fat Ultralights" flying around out there in the vapors. All these light-sport aircraft must be certificated as experimental light-sport aircraft on or before Jan. 31, 2008.

OK, we identified the problem, what is the solution? The solution is the FAA is looking at creating a temporary workforce of approximately 200 to 300 Designated Airworthiness Representatives (DAR) nationwide who will inspect and certificate these light-sport aircraft for a fee. By the way, each DAR sets his own fee for certification, not the FAA. For planning purposes here in the Virginia and Maryland area the average DAR fee to certificate an amateur-built aircraft is between $250 and $350. I expect the fee for a light-sport certification to be in the same ballpark or maybe just a bit higher.

In the above paragraph, I used the word "temporary" because all FAA DAR serve on a "need only" basis (ref part 183:15 Duration of Certificate (d)(5)). If the light-sport boom goes bust in three years and the numbers of new light-sport aircraft are not as numerous as we anticipated, then many light-sport DAR will not be renewed by their local FSDO or MIDO.

Before I get into the eligibility requirements to apply for a DAR, I better go over the light-sport pilot rule so you will know what kind of aircraft that you will be inspecting and certificating. First, what is a light-sport aircraft? As defined in 14 CFR Part 1 section 1.1 Light-Sport craft are simple, low-performance aircraft that are limited to 1,320 pounds maximum weight, two occupants, a single reciprocating engine, stall speed of 45 knots, maximum airspeed of 120 knots, and fixed landing gear.

Light-sport aircraft are further divided into classes that include airplanes, weight-shift-control aircraft, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, gliders, balloons, and airships. Due to their complexity, helicopters and powered-lifts are not covered by the rule. A DAR must qualify in each "class" of aircraft that he or she wishes to certificate.

The FAA currently issues two types of airworthiness certificates - standard and special. The white standard airworthiness certificate is for Type Certificated aircraft and the "Pink" Special airworthiness certificate is for such aircraft as experimental, restricted, and limited. Because of the light-sport aircraft rule the FAA added a new category of special airworthiness certificates - light-sport, that are issued a Special Light-Sport Airworthiness Certificate in accordance with 14 CFR Section 21.190. These "Special" light-sport aircraft are designed and manufactured to an industry consensus standard and accepted by the FAA. These "Special" light-sport aircraft can be used for the following purposes:

  • Sport and recreation
  • Flight training
  • Rental
  • Towing

The second certificate issued under this rule is the Experimental Airworthiness Certificates - Operating Light-Sport Aircraft (14 CFR 21.191(i)). These experimental aircraft can be used for sport and recreation, flight training (personal use only), and towing. A light-sport aircraft owner is eligible for an experimental certificate for the purpose of operating light-sport aircraft if the aircraft meets one of the following:

  1. The aircraft does not meet the existing definition of ultra light vehicle in 14 CFR 103.

  2. The aircraft is assembled from an eligible kit.

  3. The aircraft previously had been issued a special, light-sport aircraft airworthiness certificate and you do not want to comply with the operating limitations associated with a special light-sport certificate.

As of the date this article was written, the FAA has not formally accepted a completed industry consensus standard, so no light-sport "Special" aircraft has been built. However, since we have approximately 14,000 fat ultra-light aircraft out there waiting to be certificated, we have plenty of work staring us in the face.

The qualifications for a DAR are found in FAA Order 8130.33 Designated Airworthiness Representative: Amateur-Built and Light-Sport Aircraft Certification Functions. Here is the web site address: http://www.airweb.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/ rgOrders.nsf/Mainframe?OpenFrameSet. This is the Order that sets the guidelines and requirements for a light-sport and/or amateur-built DAR. I would recommend applying for both the amateur-built and light-sport DAR authorization. If you qualify for both, it doubles your chances to make a buck.

Initial requirements

To qualify as an amateur-built DAR (function code 46) you would have to hold: A current A&P certificate and performed a minimum of three condition inspections on amateur-built aircraft of the same class and complexity as those for which the authorization is sought. The individual must have also built and received certification on at least one amateur-built aircraft and that aircraft must have operated for a minimum of 100 hours.

To qualify as an experimental DAR for light sport (function code 47) you would have to hold: A current A&P certificate and built and received a certification of an amateur-built aircraft and that aircraft must have operated for a minimum of 100 hours. As an A&P the individual must have performed a minimum of three condition inspections on amateur-built aircraft, light-sport aircraft, or two-place ultralight training vehicle of the same class and complexity for which authorization is being sought.

To qualify as an DAR to issue special airworthiness certificates in light sport category (function code 48), one must be familiar with the fabrication, assembly, and operating characteristics of light-sport category aircraft and hold a current A&P and have a minimum of five years experience maintaining the same class and complexity of the aircraft for the DAR being sought.

Additional requirements

  1. Read, write, and speak the English language.

  2. Three verifiable character references that substantiate the applicant has integrity and sound judgment.

  3. Possess integrity, sound judgment, cooperative attitude, sufficient knowledge in technical and administrative functions associated with the appointment and must satisfactorily demonstrate this to the FAA prior to appointment.

  4. Have the ability to maintain the highest degree of objectivity while performing authorized function on behalf of the FAA.

The package: Because you will be acting on behalf of the FAA you will have to fill out some forms. Note: all of these forms listed below are in the appendix of FAA Order 8130.33.

  1. FAA Form 8110-14 Statement of Qualifications (appendix 1, figure 1)

  2. Amateur-Built and Light-Sport Qualification Supplement (appendix 1, figure 2)

  3. Recommending organization letter (appendix 1, figure 2)

  4. Three verifiable character references (appendix 1, figure 2)

  5. Three verifiable technical references (appendix 1, figure 2)

Another note: In lieu of a letter from a recommending organization such as the Aero Sport Connection, Soaring Society of America, United States Ultra Light Associations, EAA, Light Sport Aircraft Manufacturers and North American Powered Parachute Federation or in the case of another organization not identified in the Order, the FAA can make a determination that the individual's qualifications meet the minimum requirements and it is in the best interest of the FAA to make the appointment. The letter of recommendation from an industry organization, while helpful, does not automatically guarantee an applicant that he or she will be appointed as a DAR.

The process

When all of the FAA Order 8130.33 requirements are met you forward your package to:

Federal Aviation Administration
Designee Standardization Branch, AFS-640
ATTN: National Examiner Board
P.O. Box 25082
Oklahoma City, OK 73125-0082

The National Examiner Board will review the package and determine whether or not you are eligible. If you are found to be eligible, you would be notified of what function code you meet, the classes of aircraft you would be permitted to certificate, and the geographic area you can serve as a DAR. You would then be added to the DAR pool. If you are not eligible, you will be notified by letter within 30 days. If you feel this determination was not fair you can appeal to NEB for a second review of your package.

Now here is where the "need" requirement comes in. It is up to the FAA regional office and FSDO/MIDO manager to determine if a "need" exists for a DAR. Once this "need" is determined the regional office requests a list of qualified DAR applicants from the NEB pool of qualified applicants. An evaluation committee (EC) with at least two representatives from the FSDO/MIDO is formed to review the NEB applicants' packages. An individual is then selected to be a DAR by the EC and he in turn is then notified that he has the job by the FSDO/MIDO.

But, the pain is not over yet! You have to go to DAR school! Despite being selected as a DAR you cannot certificate an aircraft until you have completed your initial DAR training in OKC. Lets face it, before you can be a representative of the Administrator, you have to learn the secret FAA handshake and get your very own regulatory decoder ring. With travel, the DAR school is a week long course. There will be a charge for the FAA school but the actual cost has not been decided on, but I have heard it will be somewhere around $250. In addition you will have to pay your own travel to and from OKC and living expenses while there. Once school is satisfactorily completed then with the FSDO/MIDO's blessing you can go to work.

Now if I may, can I offer you a couple of words of advice. As a DAR you will generate at least two paper trails. First, you have the FAA paperwork which you will learn all about in school in OKC.

The other paperwork is your contract agreement with your customer. It is vital that you put everything in writing and the contract is signed by both you and your customer. The contract should identify the owner, the class, make and model of aircraft, registration number, serial numbers for aircraft and engine, the work to be performed and should list the certification fee and any other additional travel costs you incur. Make sure that the contract addresses any additional costs. For example, if the aircraft fails your inspection, and you have to re-inspect it, say a week's time after the owner corrects the problem areas, those additional costs in time and travel should be identified in the contract.

I recommend that you take photographs of every aircraft you certificate; especially the engine/propeller installation, instrumentation, data plates, and N number locations and put them in your just-in-case file.

After reading this article and your interest is peeked, then I recommend that you visit the FAA Aircraft Certifications web site and do a little more exploring about becoming a DAR. The web site address is http://www.faa.gov/certification/aircraft. Who knows where this job opportunity will lead. AMT
About the Author

Bill O'Brien