Pilots Facing Retests After Incompetent Examiner Revealed


AOPA is reporting that hundreds of pilots may have to take their practical tests over again after an FAA investigation revealed issues with the performance of a Cincinnati FAA examiner. Anyone who passed ride with Michael A. Puehler between 2008 and 2019 may have to take the test again. AOPA says the FAA said the action was taken to “ensure that these individuals meet the standards.” On July 15, the FAA sent a policy document to aviation safety inspectors that included a draft letter to be sent from FSDOs to deliver the news to the affected pilots.

The letter says the reexamination is necessary in the “interest of safety” and gives the pilots ten days to contact their local FSDO to start the process. It will be quite a process for some, especially if they got progressively more advanced ratings and endorsements from Puehler. They’ll have to be retested on all of them. But some may get a pass. Depending on the particular rating or endorsement, many of those who went on to take advanced practical exams from other examiners won’t have to be retested. Those who don’t want to go through it all can voluntarily cancel or downgrade their certificates.

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      • direct fraud on the part of the Inspector/DPE, and one or more of the pilots, this looks like a plethora of paperwork screw-ups that invalidate the check rides involved.

        Big price to pay for bad paperwork, if that’s the case.

  1. I’m speechless.

    The only other similar cases like this that I can think of are foreign-national-oriented flight schools. Hawaii comes to mind for past problems, but I’m sure there are mainland examples too.

    I hope the local FSDOs exercise common sense about using “advanced practical exams from other examiners” instead of just putting license holders through the grinder.

    • I ran into a few foreign nationals that were graduates of a 141 school out in Texas, had all their ratings except ATP. One guy came to me for a Flight Review and couldn’t get through the ground review of the basic Private Pilot VFR questions. I ended the FR pretty quickly and sent him away after asking him about the 141 school he managed to get all his training done. There seems to be a lot of this stuff happening with foreign-national-oriented flight schools.

  2. I personally consider it BS. No one, none of us have check ride proficiency remaining usually even the day after a check ride, and that includes the FAA folks who have to give these new check rides. Exception to this would probably be airline or current corporate folks. These new checkrides can cost many of these folks a fortune in having to find an aircraft to meet requirements, then getting the time necessary to return to checkride level. If multi and instrument, lots of money here including the need for a CFI or safety pilot. All of these folks should have had by now some flight reviews attesting to their proficiency. I think all of these hundreds involved should file a class action suit against the bad examiner and the FAA person who provided, or didn’t provide oversight of him/her, and sue for all the expenses that will be involved. Or the FAA can just look at the track records of folks and see if they have been performing ok up until now. Again, just aggravates me….BS.

  3. The title “examiner” is misleading. The period covered by order 8900.555 is when this individual was an aviation safety inspector at the Cincinnati FSDO. The period does not cover his time before then as a DPE, or after that, again as a DPE. The apparent supervision failure was a case of who’s supervising the supervisors.

  4. My comment combines the “Semi-Professional Pilot” with the FAA’s lack of ‘oversight’. Since the FAA is proving inadequate it’s time to replace them with AI FAA.
    All the testing and licensing will be done by a simulator. Computers don’t make mistakes and will not have sloppy human errors. Here’s the next generation pilot training video:

  5. Okay, let me get this straight… The FAA discovers that it has been asleep at the switch for over a decade, and now they want possibly hundreds of pilots to clean up their mess? In the middle of a pandemic, mind you, they want these people to go through the time and expense of proving they know how to fly. Some of these pilots could have gone through as many as six flight reviews and may have hundreds or even a thousand+ hours in their logbooks by now. Wow.

    We already know that the Feds aren’t very good at overseeing aircraft design, but now it appears they aren’t any better at pilot training.

    • What exactly are we talking about here? Is this a few private pilot flight tests, or dozens of type ratings in assorted jets? The costs of re-checks could be astronomical. Does it include airline check rides too? CVG was full of regional airline pilots back then.

      A lot more details are needed for intelligent comment. Shades of Pakistan?

  6. Why is the FAA wanting to re-examine pilots that one of their FSDO examiners has given checkrides to? Was the examiner not FULLY checked out and certified successfully passing all the requirements of training set forth by OK City? If there was a problem with an examiner of theirs, why is it now a problem better than a decade later and who was responsible for his credentials and who was over the training program at the FAA to begin with. I have heard some BS through the years but this takes the winning cake.

  7. (2) Airmen in the process of taking an exam that meet the criteria set forth in this notice
    that would exclude them from a reexamination must contact the Cincinnati FSDO upon receipt
    of their letter. If the airman cannot complete the exam within 15 days of receipt of their letter, the
    airman must contact the Cincinnati FSDO and temporarily deposit his or her airman certificate at
    the FSDO in accordance with paragraph 8.

    Ugly. “Several hundred pilots may be affected”

  8. Foreign airmen who were issued certificates or ratings by Mr. Puehler during the cited time period are to be reexamined in the same manner as airmen in the United States. In many instances, the foreign airmen will have been issued foreign licenses based on their U.S. certificates. This notice does not authorize reexamination activity outside the United States. In order to be reexamined, foreign airmen will have to appear in the United States at their own expense

  9. Rumor (STRICTLY rumor) is that the person in question was accepting side payments for easy check rides. The pilot equivalent of a pencil-whip annual.

    *IF* this is true, then it may very well call into question the abilities and judgement of the people who received certificates from Mr. Puehler. Abilities (or lack thereof) by seeking out an ‘easy’ examiner, and judgement for agreeing to pay a bribe.

    However, I have not seen or heard anything other than unsubstantiated rumors. But it does present a case of why the FAA would respond the way it has. Mr. Puehler may well be qualified himself, but if he has not been holding his applicants to the same standard, how would the FAA know, except by whistleblower or applicants failing higher ratings given by other DPEs?