Surviving An FAA Ramp Check

You are standing on the ramp performing a pre-flight inspection. A man who you have never seen before approaches you and starts chatting about the weather and asking you questions: “What’s your name?”, “Where are you going?” etc. How do you respond?

First, know who you are talking to. Ask for the person’s name. Find out what he or she is doing there. In this post 9/11 era, knowing who is at the airport and what they are doing is good practice and prevention. This is the premise of AOPA’s GA Secure program. Second, if the person is an FAA inspector, you want to find that out as soon as possible. If he or she is, ask to see his or her FAA Identification card.

During the course of a ramp check, the FAA inspector will ask to inspect/review a number of items. Some of those items and how you produce them for the FAA inspector are discussed below. Quite a bit of this is common sense. Much of it is information all pilots learned, or should have learned, when they learned how to fly.

Personal Documents

When you fly an aircraft, you must have certain personal documents in your possession. You must have your airman certificate and it must be appropriate to the aircraft and type of flying you are doing. You must also have your medical certificate. It must be the original certificate issued by your Airman Medical Examiner and it must also be current and appropriate to the type of flying you are doing. Finally, in the aftermath of 9/11, you must also have in your possession a drivers license or other government issued ID containing your photograph.


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Next, the inspector may ask to see your flight logbook. I advise pilots not to bring their logbook with them when they are flying. Why? Two reasons: One, if you bring your logbook with you and it is destroyed if you are in an accident, you won’t have any documentation to prove your flight time and currency. This can raise potentially ugly issues not only with the FAA, but also with your insurance company if they question your currency at the time of the accident and deny coverage. To avoid the insurance coverage issue, if you must bring your logbook with you I suggest you keep a photocopy of your logbook at home or in some other safe place.

Second, if you have your logbook with you and the inspector asks to review it, you will have to provide the entire logbook. Rather than allowing the inspector to review more logbook entries than are necessary or pertinent at the time of the ramp check, I prefer having the opportunity after the ramp check to simply photocopy the pages documenting your currency and then providing them to the inspector.