James E. (Jim) Trusty 2007
Reprinted with permission from Jim Trusty
Ramp checks, I am told, are just another way
the Federal Aviation Administration enforces safety. It is
not, I am assured, something that inspectors do in order to
make friends and influence people. And if you fly far enough
and long enough, you will be given the privilege of enjoying
one. Here are some facts that should help you get through
what you will consider an ordeal and the FAA considers
routine. I think the facts listed below will help both sides
of a ramp check.
If you have been keeping up with the changes
and movements within the Federal Aviation Administration
over the years, you will have to agree that a ramp check is
not the worst possible thing that can happen to you as you
go forward in flight across our beautiful land. In fact,
after reading this article you might be willing to
voluntarily undergo one just for your own peace of mind.
They even have a program where you can volunteer to
experience this very thing called a P.A.C.E. Program. You
might first want to ask yourself why you would want all this
grief, but then you may also want to ask yourself if you are
doing anything wrong that could be corrected by an airplane
inspection and a short checkride, probably not. I hope this
article will remove any of the wild and bad things you have
heard about ramp checks.
1. ATTITUDE: Be cool, be
confidant, don't panic, be polite and cooperative. It's
quicker. There is absolutely no way that having a smart
attitude is going to make this meeting go any better for
either side. You are a pilot and so is the inspector. Let's
act like the cool professionals we are all supposed to be.
2. IDENTIFICATION: Verify that
this person is an FAA inspector and that they have the
authority to check you and your aircraft. This should be
addressed at the very beginning. I would be reluctant to
answer a bunch of questions for a stranger and, in fact,
would probably call the local FAA FSDO and report this
individual if they could not produce proper and immediate
3. WITNESSES: If possible, get
a witness or two to the entire procedure. The inspector
should not complain; it will protect both sides just in case
things are not running as smoothly as either side would
like. It will also give another pilot a chance to see how
this type of inspection is conducted so they will be better
prepared in case they are the next to feel the wrath or just
4. INQUIRE: Why the ramp check
is being conducted, why you were selected for the honor, and
what they will be looking for. I think you deserve to know
the answer to these questions. If this is a random "witch
hunt" then you have the time to decide whether you wish to
participate. If it were a fact-finding tour or a training
session for a new inspector, I would worry a little that I
was the selected training airplane. Are they following some
new guidelines (which change with the administration or the
weather) or just passing through and thought they would like
to make their presence known?
5. WARRANTY: None needed, nor
is any other special paperwork. It's a safety check,
remember, protected by regulation and well known by you and
everyone else in aviation, so be prepared for the
eventuality. I think that if they presented me with a
warrant or any piece of paper with my name and aircraft
number on it, I would run, not walk, to an attorney's office
because the fat would already be in the fire, so to speak.
6. K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple,
Stupid! Do not volunteer information. You are required to
give your name, state the fact that you are the pilot in
command, and provide the required documents. Just as what
they can do is spelled out very clearly in regulation, your
participation should be to assist and not be the sole
provider of information that may be detrimental to your
future flying career.
7. NO! : The inspector DOES NOT have the
right to board your aircraft! But they do have the right to
start an enforcement action on the spot! So why invite
trouble? If you have something to hide, now is the time to
call your attorney; if not, let them look. This is a good
rule for all involved. It keeps rather innocent things to
you from becoming something so wrong to them. It should also
let you know that the airplane has its uses and its
limitations. Be mindful of exactly what you are ferrying and
be prepared, if necessary, to explain to someone of
authority why, what, where, how and who.
8. COURTESY: Is required and
expected from both sides. Personally, I demand it! This is a
regulated meeting that takes place every single day at some
airport in the United States. The requirement that both
sides be civil and courteous to each other came many years
ago from family training. If either side is lacking in
manners, this is not going to be an easy ordeal. If both
sides can't handle it courteously, it will most likely end
up being a hassle for at least one of the two involved. Make
sure you are not the loser just because of a lack of ability
to interact with the other pilot.
9. PILOT CERTIFICATE:
Inspectors have the right to inspect your license, but NOT
keep it for any reason. While operating an aircraft in the
United States, we must have on our person at all times our
Pilot's Certificate and our Medical Certificate. If someone
is a Flight Instructor, they must have that certificate
also. We are not required to have our personal logbook with
us, nor the maintenance records for the airplane, although
we might have to produce both or either at a later meeting.
10. FLY ON: You cannot be
grounded because of a ramp check of you or your aircraft.
But are you willing to continue on your way if an expert has
pointed something unsafe out to you? The FAA cannot ground
you for some infraction, but it will be noted if you leave
the runway after a defect is pointed out to you. Should it
end in some type of accident, your insurance company would
most probably not pay up because you were, in fact, notified
of the problem in person and in writing at the time of the
Finally, please be reminded that the rights
listed above govern both sides, BUT for your information, if
something wrong is found during the ramp check, with you or
the aircraft, it must be corrected immediately or the FAA
will most assuredly take further action.
BIG DEAL! The documents that are required to
comply with the inspector's request are supposed to be on
board at all times anyway: CHART (Current), AIRWORTHINESS
CERTIFICATE, RADIO LICENSE*, REGISTRATION, OPERATING
LIMITATIONS, WEIGHT AND BALANCE. And now you also need a
photo I.D. according to 61.3 (a)(2).
Your Private Pilot Flight Examiner can do
about the same thing as a ramp check. The Private Pilot
Practical Test Standards Test states the applicant must
exhibit knowledge of the aircraft documents by "locating and
explaining the importance of each of them."
In conclusion, I hope you appreciate the way
I have approached this problem and the advice I have given.
Absorb all this and then check with an aviation attorney if
it starts to get out of hand. A ramp check, if conducted
professionally on both sides, need not be anything more than
a safety check and informal meeting between two pilots that
are both seeking the same end result'better aviation safety
for all of us. I've always felt I could do my part and let
them do theirs. What's your feeling?
I'll see you at the airport! Always
remember, pilots who don't fly have no advantage over people
who can't fly. What's your excuse?
*Still needed for travel outside the United
States and for some FAA 135 commercial operations.
***ACCIDENTS ARE CAUSED AND THEREFORE
Written permission from the author required
to reprint this copyrighted article. (2007)
E. (Jim) Trusty, ATP/CFI/IGI, was named the FAA/Aviation
Industry National Flight Instructor of the Year for 1997,
and the first ever FAA Southern Region Aviation Safety
Counselor of the Year for 1995 and again in 2005. He still
works full-time as a Corporate 135 Pilot/ "Gold Seal" Flight
& Ground Instructor/ FAA Safety Team Lead Representative/
National Aviation Magazine Writer. You have been enjoying
his work since 1973 in publications worldwide. If you have
comments, questions, complaints, or compliments, please
e-mail them directly to him, and he will certainly respond.