63 Years of Boeing-Style Delegation – A Short History

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Organizational delegation was implemented in 1956, when the first Delegation Option Authorization (DOA, an unfortunate acronym) was put in place for aircraft manufacturers. Delegation is now 92 years old!.

In 1927, merely one year after the Air Commerce Act was passed, the great-grandfather of the FAA, the Aeronautics Branch of the Department of Commerce, first exercised the power to extend its regulatory function when Louis Hopewell Bauer, first medical director, appointed fifty physicians as Aviation Medical Examiners (AME).

The program continues to grow to the degree that neither the FAA nor industry can function as efficiently or safely as it does today. Pilots needing a medical evaluation today pay an AME to determine whether she/he meets the FAR standards.

The FAA history of delegation includes the following important legislative milestone from 1950:

“Congress clarified the language for appointment of designees. One reason given for this clarification was “FAA was clearly in need of private sector expertise to keep pace with the growing aviation industry.”

The critics, particularly Members of Congress, should review their own past proceedings from 1973, in which the delegation was questioned, the rational explained and the authority remained unchanged:

Congress questioned the ability of the industry to work for FAA. Congressman Jack Brooks said, “… it appears the regulated are regulating themselves. Such a procedure is most unique and requires exceptionally critical oversight.” At the same hearing, the Administrator suggested the Act “recognized the practical necessity of utilizing the technical capabilities of the private sector in administering the many complex certification programs required by law.” The Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) noted, “… the safety problems involving delegation which have come to our attention have involved such isolated circumstances that, with one exception, it is difficult to apply any generalities to our findings.”

Organizational delegation continues to evolve to meet today’s FAA demands, just as this function was essential to meeting the aviation safety mission in 1956.

Today a delegated organization is called an Organization Designation Authorization (ODA), which was promulgated in 2009 and is a consolidation of a variety of previously authorized types of organizational delegation such as DOA, Designated Alteration Stations (DAS, 1965), and Special Federal Aviation Regulation number 36 (SFAR36, 1978, which were delegated organizations for aircraft repair).  As explained in the initial NPRM, there is broadly based and significant need for the ODA:

Through the designee system, the FAA can focus resources on new applications of existing technology, on new and evolving technologies, and on the growth in the aviation industry as a whole. By consolidating designee programs, the agency can further its standardization efforts and use the resources of the aviation industry more effectively. There are several factors that are beginning to affect the certification process. FAA workload continues to increase because of increased requests for services and increased levels of complexity in the products being introduced in the aerospace market. Also, the FAA has focused its resources toward continuing the operational safety of in-service products, and developing regulations and airworthiness standards necessary to increase the level of safety. The net effect is a decrease in FAA capacity to perform certification of products or other certificate holders. In combination, these factors have made it more difficult for the FAA to provide timely services to its customers.

A report issued by the United States General Accounting Office (GAO), entitled ‘‘Aircraft Certification: New FAA Approach Needed to Meet Challenges of Advanced Technology’’ (GAO/RCED–93–155, September 1993), states that since the late 1950s, official estimates show a fivefold increase in the work needed to certificate a new aircraft. During this same period, the FAA’s workload increased in areas such as monitoring already certificated aircraft, issuing airworthiness directives, and developing new regulations and policies. With the rise in workload, the FAA’s dependence on the designee system has increased. This is particularly true for the certification of new, advanced-technology aircraft software and computer systems.





The allegation that the ODA is an unwarranted abrogation of the FAA’s responsibilities is contravened by Congressional and GAO knowledge of and multiple extension of this worldwide recognized practice. [FOR EXAMPLE HERE IS AN EASA DESIGNATION].



Congress enacted a specific law, 49 USC §44702(d), which provides that the Administrator may delegate to a qualified private person, or an employee supervised by that person, a matter related to the examination, testing, and inspection necessary to issue a certificate and the issuance of the certificate. The term ‘‘private person’’ means an individual or organization other than a governmental authority


Today, the FAA Aircraft Certification organization has approximately 1100 staff, with roughly 300-400 engineers that are responsible for design approvals related to every type certificate (TC), supplemental type certificate (STC), Technical Standard Order Authorization (TSOA) airworthiness directive (AD), service bulletin (SB), spare part, every engineering designee and all delegated design organizations. There are about 40 FAA engineers that are responsible for oversight of the Boeing ODA, which is delegated to approve the vast majority of Boeing design submittals for all models, which is a huge, continuous effort.

These FAA engineers have other critical responsibilities as well, including their primary task being the continued operational safety of the enormous fleet of airplanes already in service. Without delegation, all aviation’s (not just domestic innovation, but also international TC applications) ability to design and develop new aircraft, engines and components would be stifled. The FAA staff needed to review and approve these applications would be daunting, cost prohibitive and extremely time consuming. By deterring innovation, that it would have a huge negative impact on the industry and the traveling public.

Not only has Congress encouraged delegation for decades, they have also continued to expand the limits of delegation. In the 2012 FAA Reauthorization Act, Section 303: DESIGN AND PRODUCTION ORGANIZATION CERTIFICATES, Congress declared:

“Beginning January 1, 2013, the Administrator may issue a certificate to a design organization, production organization, or design and production organization to authorize the organization to certify compliance of aircraft, aircraft engines, propellers, and appliances with the requirements and minimum standards prescribed under section 44701(a). An organization holding a certificate issued under this subsection shall be known as a certified design and production organization (in this subsection referred to as a `CDPO’).”

A CDPO is the penultimate delegation, and even though Congress authorized CDPO nearly 7 years ago, the FAA has yet to issue a certificate because the FAA, in their discretion, has determined industry is not ready.

In other words, Congress has encouraged, pushed and enabled the FAA to delegate to industry for many, many decades. The delegation system has been a critical part of developing the safest means of mass transportation the world has ever known, and the FAA has exercised their discretion in a manner that has made the FAA regulations the international gold standard. Organizational delegation is an essential component of American competitiveness in the global aviation marketplace.

To revisit the 1973 testimony of the NTSB Chairman, “It is clear, however, that these problems have generally been related to the implementation {of delegation[1]} rather that the concept of the program.” Any delegation issues related to the type certification of the 737 MAX will be found and corrected, and the delegation authority will survive, because it must.


A longer history drawn from the 2004 NPRM-Establishment of Organization Designation Authorization Procedure


[1] Insertion for clarity


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2 Comments on "63 Years of Boeing-Style Delegation – A Short History"

  1. Jill DeMarco | April 23, 2019 at 5:30 pm | Reply

    Good job of explaining, Mike B.! I’m sure there’ll be more to come! Maybe one day Joe Blow will understand delegation!

  2. Enjoyed the history and especially the importance of delegation. I’ll offer a couple of comments: The ODA rule was issued in 2005 and first ODA authorized in 2006. EASA does not rely on delegation; they set up their certification and approval system based on the use of approved design organizations, who aren’t representative of EASA, but rather a prerequisite to a design approval.

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