A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the FSDO!

We were discussing the pros and cons of using a FSDO inspector vs a DAR. This reminded me of when I got my Repairman's Certificate. Every word is absolutely true!

At the conclusion of my successful AW inspection, the DAR said "Unfortunately, I can't issue the Repairman's Certificate. You'll have to go to the Nashville FSDO (90 miles away) for that. Be sure and call them and make an appointment - they have a lot of security now and won't accept a drop-in visit!"  Sooo, I dutifully called the Nashville FSDO and was referred to ... let's call him "Bob."

Me: "Hi Bob, my DAR said I need to make an appointment to come to the Nashville FSDO and get my Repairman's Certificate."

Bob: "That's not correct! You don't need an appointment!"

Me: "Are you sure? The DAR specifically told me I did need an appointment!"

Bob: "Absolutely! No appointment! Just come by during normal hours of 9 to 4 and we'll take care of it!"

Me: "OK! Guess I'll see you soon!"

Bob: "Now wait a minute - you don't have to see ME!  Anybody in the office should be able to help you. You don't have to ask for ME! (I had the distinct impression that 'ole Bob wasn't looking for any extra work!)

Me: "OK, will do!"


A couple of weeks later, I journeyed to Nashville. The FSDO office was in a rather anonymous-looking building near the airport. Down at the end of a corridor with rather poor signage was the FSDO entrance - a rather substantial-looking door with a tiny window and a call box on the wall. I pushed the button, and a anonymous voice emanated from the box:


Box; "Can I help you?"

Me: "I'm here to apply for my Repairman's Certificate."

Box: "Do you have an appointment?"

Me: "No, but I called first and was told I didn't need one!"

Box: "Hmmm. Who told you that?"

Me: "Bob told me I didn't need an appointment!"

Box: "Well, Bob's not here ... just a minute." (After 2-3 minutes.) "OK, come on in."


The door buzzed and I stepped into a tiny reception area with a desk behind a plate glass window. Nobody was there. Good thing I wasn't claustrophobic! I settled into a chair, having now figured out that "waiting" was a big part of the application process for my certificate!  After a few minutes, an anonymous official appeared at the door beside the plate glass and said:


Official: "So, you're here for a Repairman's Certificate?"

Me: "Yes."

Official: "And, you don't have an appointment?"

Me: "No, but Bob said I didn't need one - he said just show up anytime between 9 and 4!"

Official: "And I don't guess Bob told you that everyone leaves for lunch at 11 a.m.?" (It was 11 a.m.!)

Me: "No sir."

Official: "Well, I'm sorry buddy, that's not in my department and there is no one here to help you. You might as well go have lunch and come back in an hour."


Sooo, I left for lunch and dutifully returned in an hour, approached the door, and pushed the button on the call box:


Box; "Can I help you?"

Me: "Yes, I'm here to apply for my Repairman's Certificate!"

Box: "Do you have an appointment?"

Me: "No, but I was here this morning, and I was told to come back now!

Box: "Hmmm. OK, come in!"


This time, the reception desk was occupied! The receptionist told me to have a seat and  ... wait. In a few minutes, a pleasant fellow appeared and said he would help me with the application. He had the look of a seasoned Federal bureaucrat. We went back to a conference room and he began rummaging around for a stack of forms. He sat down and looked at the forms while question marks grew all over his face. He shoved one or two at me to work on, and while I was filling those out, he returned with an even more seasoned-looking Federal bureaucrat! They then asked, "Do you have a log?" I slid over my extensive log with dozens and dozens of pictures. Mr. Seasoned Bureaucrat randomly flipped it open - looked at two pages, closed it and slid it back!  Basically, what then ensued was that I'd fill out something, Mr. Seasoned Bureaucrat would fill out something, and then he handed it over to the Mr. More Seasoned-Looking Bureaucrat to look at and he would say "Yay or Nay" as to whether it was properly done. This tag-team process took almost an hour. Meanwhile, I'm sitting there thinking, "Lessee, that's two federal employees taking two man-hours for my application. With wages, bonuses, benefits, etc. I'll bet this "free" application is costing the taxpayers $500!"


Is this a great country or what? By the way, I did get the certificate ... and without an appointment! How convenient!


All in good fun,





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Comment by Jim B Belcher on October 9, 2013 at 2:53pm

Years ago, when I was applying for a mechanic's certificate, I had to go to the FSDO to get my experience certified, so I could take the written exam. The AI who had been supervising me had copied the experience requirements out of the FARs verbatim. I'm not going to say which FSDO, because I really don't want to stir up anything, and it's been 25 or more years, so the same people aren't even likely to be there.

When I got to the FSDO and waited my turn, the guy to which I was assigned read the letter, and stated that I did not have the required experience. Trying to keep from laughing, I asked him to show me the required experience from the FARs.

He fumbled around a while, trying to figure out which FAR it was in. The whole area was cubicles, so each FAA employee could hear the others. It was getting quieter and quieter, and you could guess that everyone was listening to our conversation.

Finally, the FAA guy pulled out a document and showed me experience requirements. It was the wrong FAR!

I looked at it carefully, and pointed out that the requirements he was citing were for a master parachute rigger, then pointed him in the direction of the correct FAR. Of course, since the letter was copied from that FAR, it matched perfectly.

By now, the office area was deathly still. He signed the necessary forms, setting a new speed for signing his name, and got me out of the office as quickly as possible. I had to try hard not to laugh.

I later learned that this particular FSDO had people transferred to it from another FSDO that had too many people. Evidently, they did not transfer their best people.  As someone has pointed out, responses can vary widely from FSDO to FSDO.

Comment by Ronald Steele on October 8, 2013 at 4:30pm

A guy at the local airport had a DAR inspect his project.  The choice of DAR over FSDO was a time constrain issue.  The FSDO inspector is generally considered fair and reasonable to work with but scheduling can be an issue.  At any rate the FSDO inspector refused to give him his repairman certificate because he hadn't personally done the AW inspection  This was the fourth airplane guy'd built and said inspector had inspected at least some of the others.  There was just no doubt he'd built the plane.  Guy ended up selling the plane, just could not figure out how to beat the bureaucracy without alienating the inspector - who he needs for his next, much more expensive project.

Comment by David Gallagher on October 8, 2013 at 2:58pm

Here is a short tale of two FSDO's:

Brothers FSDO in another state - returns E-AB paperwork with a note saying it is in error, but there is nothing explaning what the error was.


My FSDO - Inspector comes to the hanger for AW inspection.  Says "I found an error in your E-AB paperwork.  It is a confusing part so it happens all the time.  I re-typed your paperwork for you.  Just sign on the line and we will get right on with your inspection."   We are so lucky here to have such a great guy at the Cincinnati-CVG FSDO.  He actually -wants- to come out and inspect your plane and loves the E-AB crowd.


Your mileage may vary,



Comment by Chris Craver on October 8, 2013 at 12:38pm
Glad you got it. Often those stories don't end well!

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