Since the announcement earlier this year that the FAA was creating an addition to the DER program administered by the regional aircraft certification offices (ACOs), the VAA has spoken or written to more than three dozen members interested in applying to become a DER. During our conversations, it’s become clear there are some misconceptions regarding the qualifications needed to be appointed a VDER.
The VDER program is a specific designation under the umbrella of the DER program—the qualifications needed for becoming a VDER are nearly identical to those needed for being appointed a DER by the FAA. It isn’t a “DER light” program, nor does it create a new program for those who have no engineering expertise. That’s not to say the appointment can’t be made if someone is not an engineer; it simply means applicants must prove their expertise to be considered for the appointment. As stated in the Vintage DER Checklist, “The intent of the authority is to allow individuals who don’t meet the conventional DER appointment criteria to become VDERs with limited approval authority in multiple technical specialties for repairs and/or alterations of specific makes of vintage airplanes and/or engines.”
It is intended to allow a person who has both real-world maintenance experience with a specific vintage aircraft type and the appropriate level of engineering expertise to create engineering-related data that is acceptable to the ACO. The goal of the program is to streamline the data-creation process, shortening the time needed to gain an FAA approval for modification or repair data.
That data still needs to be engineering-based, with a good dose of real-world maintenance added into the mix so that the data can be applied to subsequent work done on similar aircraft. An example of an ideal candidate for a VDER appointment would be an engineer who has been working with a particular type club on its vintage aircraft, but who perhaps is currently only an “airframe DER” or something similar.
A VDER applicant’s educational background would have both maintenance and engineering components; a person with an aircraft maintenance engineering degree would be a good candidate, as would an aeronautical engineer who is actively involved in type club maintenance-related activities. Another good candidate would be an airframe and powerplant mechanic with inspection authorization as well as engineering expertise who has been regularly creating data the flight standards district office (FSDO)/ACO finds acceptable without additional engineering work.
Without a formal engineering degree, applicants must show the FAA they have the engineering expertise to generate the data. An example would be someone without a formal engineering degree who has worked with his local FSDO and ACO to create data related to field approvals. If his engineering work has been shown to be acceptable to the FAA, that experience can be used to show compliance with the requirements for a VDER appointment.
The FAA can then choose to, upon his application, add a VDER designation to the appointment when the applicant can show that he has engineering expertise to deal with the changes related to that type of vintage airplane.
If you’d like to review the material on becoming a VDER, you can read our checklist, created in cooperation with the FAA, at www.VintageAircraft.org/der/der_checklist.pdf.