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Vintage DER

Vintage DER
VAA’s H.G. Frautschy (not shown), and Randy Hansen (left), EAA’s  Government Relations Director, were briefed by Dave Swartz (far right), the acting director of the FAA’s Anchorage, Alaska Aircraft Certification Office (ACO) about the new FAA’s new Vintage DER program. Also present were the FAA’s Fred Guerin, Steve Thompson, and the Director of the FAA’s Small Aircraft Directorate, Kim Smith.

We received great news during the annual EAA Convention and Fly-In that the FAA had approved our proposal and created a new designation within the Designated Engineering Representative (DER) program— designated engineering representatives for vintage aircraft or vintage DERs (VDERs). The culmination of two years of effort by EAA, VAA and FAA staff, the new VDER designation should help reduce the cost and complexity of obtaining engineering approvals for vintage aircraft. DERs essentially are engineers-for hire, recognized by the FAA for their knowledge of a particular aircraft system—engines, electrical, structural.

DERs play a crucial role in keeping aircraft flying. When a vintage airplane needs a major repair, a field modification, or a newly fabricated part to replace an original part, the DER is the one who approves the engineering data, certifying that the data are consistent with or superior to the original.
But vintage aircraft present a special challenge. A DER is typically limited to issuing approvals on a particular system or structure. If you want to hang a 90-horse engine on a plane that left the factory with 65 horses, you might have to hire three DERs to get the engineering approvals— an airframe DER, an engine DER, and maybe even a propeller DER. The cost of hiring those DERs can be prohibitive.

Under the new program, the FAA will begin designating a “new breed” of DERs—vintage VDERs--whose demonstrated expertise covers an entire vintage airplane. They will have “holistic” authority to approve engineering data on any system or structure on a specific aircraft.

The VDER’s authority will be limited, however, to one make of aircraft, though a single VDER could apply for and receive separate VDER designations for multiple aircraft.

The people who have the expertise on these airplanes are in the type clubs, and their expertise is broader and more comprehensive than a single system or structure. It makes sense for the FAA to tap that expertise to assist owners and the FAA.

FAA Small Airplane Directorate Manager Kim Smith said, “We’re excited [about VDERs] for two reasons: The vintage airplanes [at AirVenture] are beautiful, and it’s exciting to help them to stay safe and airworthy. And this is a great example of the aviation community approaching us with an idea that makes sense—that we hadn’t thought of. “It shows what can happen when you work together toward a common goal."

Dave Swartz, of the Anchorage, Alaska, Aircraft Certification Office, was instrumental in getting the VDER program approved and has been tasked with overseeing VDER implementation. He and Smith outlined plans for implementing the program at the FAA.

Smith said, “EAA and the Vintage Aircraft Association can get the word out to its members a lot faster than we can communicate with ours. If [applicants] work with us through VAA, that will help smooth out some of the bumps.”

People who want to apply for VDER certification should contact the Vintage Aircraft Association before submitting their applications to the appropriate Aircraft Certification Office. In the days following the announcement, VAA received nearly two dozen inquiries.

VAA will help people submit the application and work with FAA’s Smith and Swartz to get it into the right channels. EAA, in cooperation with Swartz, has created a checklist for those wishing to apply for the VDER certification. You can view it by clicking here.

To get on the list to receive additional information as it is available, please send an email to: vintageaircraft@eaa.org.

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