FAA demands retest of pilots after discovering improper examinations

September 12, 2013

Hundreds of pilots spread across multiple states might be receiving letters from the FAA in the coming weeks requesting they perform a reexamination flight, a so-called 709 ride. The FAA claims the reexaminations result from a public complaint and subsequent investigation regarding a designated pilot examiner (DPE) in the Northeast conducting airman tests contrary to the applicable practical test standards (PTS).

As a result, more than 300 pilots will be required essentially to retake any checkride examiner Mark George administered unless the pilot has since earned a higher level of certificate, examined by a different DPE.

“The FAA has the authority to request reexamination flights,” said David Oord, AOPA manager of regulatory affairs. “But, even so, blanket reexaminations such as this are exceedingly rare and should be used only when the agency has undeniable and overwhelming evidence that would question the conduct of an examiner.” AOPA has requested in a letter that the FAA provide sufficient justification and specifics for the checkride recalls.

Guidance for the reexamination flights was sent to the Allentown, Pa., flight standards district office last month. In it, the FAA says that pilots will be required to respond to letters requesting reexamination in 10 days or enforcement actions may eventually be taken. Reexamination flights can be conducted through other flight standards district offices, but all coordination must go through the Allentown office, according to the document.

In previous cases of pilot reexaminations, more leeway was given to those who had taken instrument rating checkrides, or added ratings such as seaplane. That doesn’t seem to be the case with the George action, and the FAA’s guidance could give some indication as to why. “The Administrator has determined that there is reason to believe that the competency of the airmen examined by DPE George from the period of March 1, 2008 – October 31, 2012 is in doubt,” it says.

“Our goal is to make sure FAA isn’t taking undue action in this case,” Oord said. “Unfortunately even if a pilot has no idea an exam is not being conducted to the applicable PTS, they could still be subject to a reexamination.”

Pilots who receive letters and have questions should contact AOPA’s Pilot Information Center (800/USA-AOPA), and use their Pilot Protection Services coverage, if applicable.