July 30, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin
- EAA’s Vintage Aircraft Association (VAA) and the FAA announced
Wednesday morning the culmination of two years of effort resulting in
approval of a new program to authorize designated engineering
representatives for vintage aircraft—“vintage DERs.”
The new VDER designation should help reduce
the cost and complexity of obtaining engineering approvals for vintage
DERs essentially are engineers-forhire,
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,” VAA Executive Director H.G.
Frautschy explained, “You might have to hire three DERs to get the
engineering approvals— an airframe DER, an engine DER, and a propeller
DER,” he said. “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.
“This is going to really help people with
small, older airplanes,” Frautschy said.
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,” he
added, “for the FAA to tap that expertise to assist owners and the FAA.”
FAA Small Airplane Directorate Manager Kim
Smith told Frautschy, “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 told Frautschy, “You can get the word
out to your members a lot faster than we can communicate with ours. If
[applicants] work with us through VAA, that will help smooth out some of
Frautschy and Smith agreed that people who want to apply for VDER certification should contact Vintage Aircraft Association before submitting their applications to the appropriate Aircraft Certification Office. In the days following the announcement, VAA received nearly a dozen inquiries.
“We can help them submit the application, and we’ll work with [FAA’s Smith and Swartz] to get it into the right channels,” Frautschy said. EAA is also preparing a "How to apply” document for aspiring VDERs.