Choosing a DME does Cost Matter

All Designated Mechanic Examiners (DMEs) are required to follow FAA Order 8900.2 in performing oral and practical exams and the procedures outlined in this order. Since the new DME downloader system went into effect October 2015 there has been some major changes in how DMEs prepare and administer the oral and practical.

Order 8900.2 allows all DME to charge a fee for the service of administering the oral and practical exam. There is no set fee and DMEs charge different rates around the U.S. from $350.00 to $1,750 depending on location and other fee’s a DME may incur.

Most DMEs do NOT publish their fees on line as the cost of preparing each oral and practical may change depending on the type of projects the FAA will select from the new downloader system all of us DME must use.

However, testing fees are an important part of testing as costs for the DME have gone up. Under the new FAA procedures all DMEs must have certain types of tools and equipment to perform testing. In addition some DMEs that test at part 146 AMT schools may be charge a facility fee they pass on to applicants or have a shop fee they must pay.

As a DME I have a set fee for the part 147 community colleges I test at. One college does charge a facility fee and one does and this is college policy if they charge this fee or not. Also I provide my applicants a breakdown of my fees when an applicant contacts me to test. I send the applicant an e-mail with the cost break down before we confirm a test date that they must agree with.

I did not charge for retests, but under the new downloader system I have had to change that policy as instead of retesting only the elements failed the entire section must be retested now and a new retest download from the FAA data base is required adding addition costs for the DME.

As a result of the new system we test under it is import that all applicants have their DME explain their fees before you test with them and I would get it in writing. If you are an applicant that failed a single or multiple sections on your tests you can retest with any DME you want. However, the practical project(s) you failed will be on your retest the new DME downloads.

I have a different testing fee for sections on the retests. As an example Section I is the entire General test with 12 different elements. Airframe Section II has 7 elements, Section III has 10 elements, Powerplant Section IV only has 3 elements and Powerplant section V has 12 elements to test in. As a result I would charge a lot less for Section IV verse Section I. This is something you should discuss with your DME if you have to retest.

How you pay your DME in another important issue to discuss. I tell my applicants in the pre-notice to test what to bring with them on test day and the exact fee they should bring and how I want to be paid. I do NOT accept checks or credit cards as I have had some applicant’s stop payment after leaving my facility. I only accept cash and only after all testing is complete where I will provide a receipt. I do not expect to be paid for my time and services until all testing is complete that’s just how I do it. Other DMEs may want to be paid up front or may accept a check or credit card that is between you and your DME, but make sure you have a clear understanding before test day of how you will pay the DME fee.

The applicant should know besides the service fee a DME charges each applicant should interview the DME to know how the DME provides the oral and practical tests. Each DME is different as an example I preform the practical projects first. I find performing the practical first helps the applicant get over the initial stress on testing day and provides a chance for the applicant to further get to know the DME. The applicant should want to know what type of tools and equipment the DME will use on the practical. I happen to use a small Cessna aircraft for many projects, some mock-ups, and a piston and turbine engine on test stands for other projects. Each DME will be different depending on their facility. I use a small aircraft for engine runs as well if the FAA downloader system selects that projects every DME will be different for engine runs as well.

Next the applicant should discuss how the DME will give the oral exam. All DMEs will have the oral question, answer, and reference to each question they will ask on the FAA planning sheet they download. The FAA will pick all oral questions same as with projects. Each element will have 7-questions and the DME must ask at least 4-questions in every element. The passing score is 70% so if an applicant get 3 right out of 4 they would pass that element, but 4-questions must be asked in each element.

How the DME asks the oral questions is important. For example I read the question exactly how it is written. Sometimes the applicant will request I read the question again, which I do. As with all question and answers everyone will have a mental block on some questions. I will mark it and move on then come back to the question and usually the applicant with remember. I tell my applicant this is their test and they should ask me to re-read a question as many times as they need to fully understand the questions that is my policy. Other DMEs may not do this, but you as an applicant should have a clear understanding how your DME will perform the oral before you start.

This is important because if you fail and element you fail the entire section and will have to retest the entire section on a retest. Failing an element under the new guide lines is failing the entire section unlike the old way of testing where you only had to retest on the element you failed.

Lastly, all most all oral and practical projects can be found in the new FAA handbooks and these are free to download from the FAA web site.