Tales from the DAR Side
Certification Inspection: Preparedness is Next to ...
Here in Wisconsin the designated airworthiness representative (DAR) business had been pretty slow all summer. I performed a couple of airworthiness inspections in the spring, then things got quiet on the certification front. This isn’t a bad thing for me, since summer is a pretty busy time at EAA. But lately the applications have started coming in again. I’ve performed three certifications in the past few weeks, and I have three or four more coming up in the near future. All of these recent inspections have gone quite well. The applicants were well prepared and the aircraft were top quality, all of which makes the inspection process simple and straightforward. That’s not always the case.
There are certain things that keep popping up again and again to slow down or try to derail the process. The problems I most often run into aren’t related to the quality of the aircraft but rather to the preparedness of the applicant. I can count on my two hands the times when there were mechanical or structural problems with the aircraft I inspected, but I’ve long ago lost count of the times something on the regulatory or paperwork side was either forgotten or done wrong.
The main issues I run into have already been covered in previous installments of this column. Things like incorrect display of N-numbers, missing or incorrect info on data plates, missing placards, no “EXPERIMENTAL” placard displayed, or incorrect/incomplete paperwork slow down the inspection process for more than a few applicants.
There’s plenty of guidance available on all these issues. EAA’s Amateur-Built Certification Kit covers all these subjects in detail. The FAA offers Advisory Circular (AC) 20-27G as well. But too often applicants either don’t look for the guidance or rely on the local airport grapevine or Internet forums and chat rooms for info. There’s a lot of good info available online, but there’s also a lot of misinformation and flat-out incorrect information as well. The Internet makes it easy to find info but doesn’t really do a lot to help you ascertain whether the info is accurate or not. Like many things, it’s a case of “buyer beware.”
Even when the applicant has the correct info in hand, it’s amazing how many times I still run into issues. A good example is having the aircraft prepared for inspection. Both the EAA kit and AC 20-27G advise the applicant that the aircraft “should be ready to fly, except for having the cowlings, fairings, and panels open for inspection.” I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve appeared for an inspection to find the aircraft completely buttoned up. Cowlings are on, wheel pants are on, inspection covers are all in place, and the interior is completely installed. Even the canopy is closed! Whenever I ask the applicant why the aircraft isn’t opened up for inspection, the answer is always “It says the airplane has to be ready to fly!” I guess these folks read only the first part of the statement and don’t get to the part stating “except for having the cowlings, fairings, and panels open for inspection.” Many times the inspection goes downhill from there, as these cases are usually the same ones where I find incorrect data plate info, missing placards, or improper N-number displays.
It all comes down to being prepared. I find that applicants like the ones I describe above are those who don’t take advantage of the resources available from EAA. I encourage all builders who are nearing their final airworthiness inspection to talk to their local EAA technical counselor, their local DAR or FAA inspector, and/or call EAA headquarters (toll-free!) and talk with the folks here in Oshkosh. A few minutes of homework will pay huge dividends when the inspector shows up at your hangar or shop to perform the inspection, and things will go better for everyone.
Now I need to get back to work and process some airworthiness inspections!