The Important Role of a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE)

Tomas Peralta

3 min read ·

A Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) works on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct oral examinations, inflight, and flight simulator practical tests to determine pilot applicant’s eligibility to be issued a Pilot Certificate. It’s up to the DPE to decide whether or not a flight student can become a legitimate pilot.

Because a DPE holds the responsibility of issuing Pilot Certifications to the new generations of flight students, the process of becoming a DPE is long and demanding—to make sure that only the most senior and proficient pilots can become DPEs. First, a senior pilot must get on a waitlist that can take up to 10 years or more before they get called in to receive specialized training and testing in the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City. After passing rigorous testing and training, DPEs must attend special FAA training camps twice a year and meet with their supervising FSDOs once a year. On top of that, they are regularly examined by the FAA Aviation Safety Inspectors to make sure they are excelling in terms of safety protocol.

The success of the DPE system is ensured by strict oversight by the FAA as well as tests that annually re-certify all DPEs. This is one of the ways the FAA ensures that all incoming pilots are exceptionally trained and won’t be a liability to have in the skies.

DPE’s are usually pilots that have a great love for flying and the industry; most of them are flight instructors or fly airline or charter planes, and choose to service the flight industry by carrying out the duties of a DPE.

When a student pilot is ready to be evaluated to receive their pilot certificate, the DPE must first verify photo ID, student certificate, and experience requirements.

Then, there is an oral portion in which the DPE asks the student a series of questions that discuss how the student might navigate future flying scenarios as a pilot. This portion aims at testing the judgment and mental skill of a pilot.

When the oral portion is passed successfully, the DPE can evaluate the student in a practical flight test; here, the DPE must carefully examine a student’s good judgment, skill, and safety proficiency.

Once a pilot is nearing the end of their flight training, it is essential to start the search for a DPE that will hopefully issue them their pilot certificate. The FAA has a page on its website of all Designated Pilot Examiners, as well as the tests they are certified to conduct.

Some flight schools may choose the DPEs that will evaluate their students while other schools will give you a list of DPEs near that area. Most often, the student is the one that chooses who will assess them.

A DPE should be chosen on the basis of proximity to the student; a student shouldn’t have to travel far to be evaluated by their DPE. Cost should also be taken into consideration because different DPE’s charge different prices for their evaluations. If a student is in a rush to receive their pilot certification, they should also look into the availability of different DPEs in their area as some are busier than others.

Choosing a DPE is an important decision in the career of all prospective pilots because a flight examiner will determine whether their skills and flight performance are worthy of an official pilot certificate.