Pilot's tip of the week

Ramp Check

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Subscriber question:

"I have this fear that I'll be ramp checked by the FAA and they'll ask for things I don't have because I fly rented aircraft. Am I worrying about nothing?" — Tom P.

Mark:

Rented or owned, we’re required to determine if the aircraft we fly is airworthy. That includes documents that must be onboard: airworthiness certificate and registration, radio station license if crossing the border, the aircraft flight manual (or other source of operating limitations for older aircraft), and a current weight and balance. Equipment added after leaving the factory usually has a flight manual supplement that must also be onboard. Even a simple GPS NAV/COM will come with a supplement. 

We are also responsible for ensuring all the maintenance and inspection requirements are met. This can be tricky for renter pilots. The flight school or FBO dispatch sheet may be wrong. Here’s a tip. Get the logbooks from the FBO or flight school some rainy day and snap photos of the latest entries to keep on your smartphone or tablet. Make sure you include the annual inspection and ELT checks, as well as pitot, static, and altimeter checks if you fly IFR. Snap any airworthiness directive compliance information you see as well. You’ll learn how to find information—and those photos might preclude a follow-up with an inspector in case of a ramp check.

Don’t forget your personal documents: your pilot certificate, government-issued photo ID, and FAA medical certificate if you have one. BasicMed documentation need only be kept with your logbook, and only student, recreational, and sport pilots are ever required to carry their logbooks. But like having the aircraft inspections, having a photo of your Basic Med documents is a good idea. If you have a digital logbook, store the image there. Digital logbooks also mean your flight review and other currency requirements are easy to show. 

Ramp checks for light GA are rare. But by having electronic copies of the required items and other important information, you paint yourself as a compliant, diligent pilot. This can predispose an inspector to be lenient on something you missed, like an inop landing light.

Have you ever been ramp checked?

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