Getting an FAA Ramp Check - Some Dos And
Don'ts That Might Make a Surprise Meeting With The FAA a Little Easier
' Jim Trusty 2006
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
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 parked nearby.
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 is 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
5. WARRANT: None needed, nor 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 license 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 ramp check.
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 . . . Remember CH.-A.R.R.O.W.
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
*Still needed for travel outside the United
States and for some commercial operations.
*** ACCIDENTS ARE CAUSED AND
THEREFORE PREVENTABLE ***
Written permission from the author required
to reprint this copyrighted article. (2006)
JIM TRUSTY, ATP/CFI/IGI/ASC, was named the
FAA/Aviation Industry National Flight Instructor of the Year for 1997, and the
FAA Southern Region Aviation Safety Counselor of the Year for 1995 & 2005. He
still works full-time as a Corporate Pilot/ 'Gold Seal' Flight & Ground
Instructor/ FAA Aviation Safety Counselor/ 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 me, and I'll respond. Thanks. (Lrn2Fly@bellsouth.net)
Stay Informed. Register on (http://www.faasafety.gov/)