FAA Ramp Check Survival

I’ve been ramp checked twice.

Both times occurred while I was securing the plane after a flight.

I was going about my business and getting everything squared away, when a man who I had never seen before comes up to me and starts talking about the weather and asking me a bunch of questions.

Getting ramp checked by the FAA is really not a big deal–so long as you’ve got your shit in order.

The first time, it took me a minute to figure out what was going on. The second time, I knew what was happening and I was ready for it.

During the process of a ramp check, the FAA inspector is going to check a number of things. Most of it is common sense and these are things you should already know from your flight training; ie, most of this should be a review for you.

And If it isn’t, go find your old CFI and kick their ass.

So what should you do and what should expect during the process?

  • Know who you are talking to. Ask for the person’s name. Find out what he or she is doing there. They could be anybody. And this being post 9/11, everyone needs to know who’s walking around on the flightline.

  • If the person is a FAA inspector, you need to know it as soon as possible. If they are, ask to see their FAA Identification card.

Personal Documents

When you get in the plane to fly, you are required by FAR 61.3 to have three personal documents with you.

  1. Your Pilot Certificate
  2. Your CURRENT medical certificate <— must be the original certificate issued by the Airman Medical Examiner and be CURRENT
  3. Your driver’s license or other government issued ID <–must have your photograph on it.

These are the first things the Inspector will want to see, so you better make sure you’ve got them.

Logbook

Although you are not required by the FARs to carry your logbook(unless you’re a student pilot),the inspector may ask to see it.

I always tell pilots not to bring their logbook with them when on a flight for two reasons:

  • If you’re in an accident and it’s destroyed, you won’t have documentation to prove your currency and flight time. So, to fix this problem, I suggest you keep a photocopy of your logbook in some other place.

  • If the Inspector asks to check your logbook, you will have to show them the entire logbook. Instead of having the inspector review more than they need to, I would rather have the opportunity AFTER the ramp check to simply give them photocopies of the pages that they would like to review.

Required Aircraft Documents

The inspector will want to check the aircraft documents during the ramp check. FAR Part 91 requires certain documents be on board.

Remember ARROW?

A – Airworthiness Certificate (N-number should match with the AC)

R – Registration Certificate (N-number should match with the AC)

R – Radio Station License (Only if you are flying outside of the US)

O – Operator’s limitations ( Aircraft POH)

W – Weight and Balance Data (usually in the POH as well)

Remember this: An inspector cannot inspect the interior of your aircraft without your consent. So, rather than having to give consent, I recommend that you personally remove the requested documents from the aircraft and give them to the inspector.

Charts

Pilots are required by FAR Part 91 to be familiar with all available information for each flight. So, an inspector may also ask to see the aeronautical charts you have used on your flight. Make sure the charts you have in the aircraft or your flight bag are current and appropriate to your flight.

This may seem like a “no-brainer,” but you would be surprised how many pilots are flying around with sectional charts that are several years old or instrument approach plates that are more than 56 days old.

Interacting With The Inspector

During the ramp check, do not volunteer any information. Remain respectful, but don’t give the Inspector any more information than is required.

Don’t try to argue with the Inspector either. You won’t win the argument anyway. Instead, you’ll just piss them off and it will usually just cause you more trouble. So don’t do it.

Play nice and show some respect.

Don’t Worry!

While you will most likely never find yourself undergoing a ramp check, it’s important to remember that if you do, it’s survivable.

– Shawn Hardin CFI/CFII

Great Aviation Headsets You Can Rely On

If you’re a pilot, then you know the importance of using a headset that is comfortable and reliable. There are many aviation headsets on the market today, but there are a few that stand out due to the high quality materials used as well as the implementation of the latest technology. You must have a headset that is reliable, lightweight and one that allows you to clearly hear radio communications.

The Telex Airman 750 is the world’s best selling lightweight headset. This is the headset of choice for airline fleets the world over and it is actually recommended by most executive jet aircraft manufacturers. The Airman 750 features a very flexible boom which allows a more comfortable fit for the placement of the microphone. The enclosed braided wire that is close to the microphone assembly adds to this unit’s durability. This headset weighs less than four ounces but it is big on performance.

Another great headset is made by Lightspeed Aviation. The Lightspeed Zulu headset uses full coverage, magnesium ear cups because magnesium is lightweight and is a better sound barrier than plastic. The Zulu offers significant reduction in cockpit noise with it’s built-in ANR system. The Zulu also is ideal for listening to music in mid-flight. It is also Bluetooth capable so you can listen to NEXRAD weather and are able to call Air Traffic Control from remote locations instead of having to get in touch with them via radio.

Probably Lightspeed Zulu’s most popular feature is the “FRC” capability. “FRC” stands for front row center. When you have it engaged and are listening to music, it makes the music sound live. If you like to listen to your favorite tunes while flying, then you will love this feature. The Zulu is also very lightweight at just thirteen ounces, so wearing it is very comfortable when you wear it forextended periods of time. The Lightspeed Zulu holds the honor of winning the “Headset of The Year” Award last year by Aviation Consumer Magazine.

If you wish to get a great deal on these headsets and other pilot-related products, there are many online businesses that specialize in aviation gear. You can find radios, receivers, books, videos, software, crew apparel, GPS units as well as aeroshell oil all online. Professional pilots do not settle for anything less than the best when it comes to headsets, and neither should you.

How To Get A Pilot License In 4 Weeks Or Less

In this article I will discuss the steps you need to take to achieve a private pilot’s license in 4 weeks or less. You will see that with the right mindset and a few pre-requisites this goal is entirely realistic and will have the added benefit of saving you a lot of money while bolstering your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Regulatory requirements for private pilot licenses vary from one country to another but in general a minimum of 40 hours of flying is required, a written or computerised test of aeronautical knowledge, and a flight test. A medical certificate is also required.

Although I have held licenses from several ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) member states, I have done most of my flying on validations of my FAA license. Therefore, I will talk about the aeronautical knowledge, skill, and experience requirements to obtain an FAA private pilot’s license in the United States. Federal Aviation Regulations Part 61 Certification of Pilots and Flight Instructors state that an applicant must meet the following requirements:

• Be at least 17 years old

• Be able to read, speak, write and understand the English language.

• Obtain at least a third class medical certificate from an Aviation Medical Examiner

• Pass a computerized aeronautical knowledge test

• Accumulate and log a specified amount of training and experience, including the following:

• At least 40 hours of flight time, including 20 hours with an instructor and 10 hours of solo flight.

• 5 hours of solo cross-country time including one flight of at least 150 nautical miles with full stop landings at a minimum of three points

• Three solo takeoffs and landings to a full stop at an airport with an operating control tower.

• 3 hours of night flight training and 10 takeoffs and landings to a full stop at an airport

• 3 hours of instrument flying training

• Pass an oral and flight test administered by an FAA inspector or FAA designated examiner.

A private pilot’s license allows command of any aircraft (subject to appropriate ratings) for any non-commercial purpose, and gives almost unlimited authority to fly under visual flight rules (VFR). Passengers may be carried and flight in furtherance of a business is permitted. However, a private pilot may not be compensated in any way for services as a pilot, although passengers can pay a pro rata share of flight expenses, such as fuel or rental costs.

Many people, for one reason or another, qualify for a private pilot’s license over an extended period of many months. This leads to a blowout in training costs. Then there is another group of people who like to accomplish their objectives in the minimum amount of time possible. Here is an outline of the procedure for those wishing to qualify for a pilot’s license in four weeks or less:

• Obtain at least a third class medical certificate from an Aviation Medical Examiner. The medical certificate you will receive is also a student pilot’s license which allows you to start flight training immediately.

• Buy a comprehensive ground school course which you can study at home on your computer.

• When you are doing well on the practice tests and are feeling confident, make an appointment at your local Flight Service District Office to take the computerized aeronautical knowledge test.

• After passing the test contact Fixed Base Operators at your local airport, ask for a quotation, and tell them that you have a student pilot’s licence/medical certificate, and that you have passed the aeronautical knowledge test and that you wish to complete your flight training in four weeks.

If you come across a training organization that tells you this is not possible, move on until you find a flying school with a positive and supportive attitude. You should also make it clear that you will be available to fly every day, weather permitting.

There will be a few days that you cannot get airborne because of adverse weather. This presents an ideal opportunity to revise certain areas of your ground course. You could also familiarize yourself with the Airplane Flight Manual for the aircraft you are flying. Many of the questions asked in the FAA oral examination are about the aircraft’s systems and performance. The other obvious reason for doing this is that you need to be knowledgeable about the systems and performance of the aircraft you are flying.

• This scenario assumes that you are able to finance the total cost of the flying and that you have 4 weeks available. Realistically you should allow for a 10% overrun. That is, budget on doing 44 hours of flying instead of the minimum 40 hours as specified in the FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations). The national average in the U.S. is 60+ hours. One of the reasons for this is that people flying only 1 or 2 hours a week lose currency which results in them having to repeat maneuvers in order to satisfy their instructor.

• If we assume that adverse weather keeps you on the ground for 20% of the 28 days you have projected, that means that you will be flying 44 hours in 22 days. That equates to only 2 hours flying per day on average. This is eminently achievable and more particularly because you will not have the stress of preparing for the aeronautical knowledge exam which you would have already passed before stepping into an airplane. You are free to concentrate on the flying! I know from my own experience that concentrated flying results in a rapid development of self confidence.

Some years ago I was living on the Italian Riviera where I had the good fortune to meet an Italian crop dusting pilot who was spraying vineyards in Piemonte in northern Italy. He held an FAA commercial pilot’s licence with an Italian validation. He very kindly gave me the textbooks that he had used to get his commercial pilot licence at Ag Aviation Academy in Reno, Nevada. I studied the textbooks assiduously every day for about two months during the summer of 1969.

When I believed I knew the subjects well enough I flew to Frankfurt where I took an FAA first class medical examination. My medical certificate was also a student pilot’s license. It was during the Frankfurt Book Fair and there were no hotel rooms available. At the main railway station I was lucky enough to meet a train driver who rented me a room, and whose wife provided me with some good German food.

The next day I went to the Rhein Main Air Base where the FAA District office for Europe and the Middle East was located. I showed the FAA inspector my medical certificate and student license and told him that I wished to take the commercial pilot written examination. I had zero hours flight time but they weren’t concerned about that. They gave me the exam paper, told me I had six hours to complete it, and showed me into the testing room. At that time pocket calculators could not be used. Basic arithmetic was the norm for figuring out the weight and balance questions. I struggled for the full six hours then flew back to Italy to wait for the Airman Test Report.

After a couple of weeks of high anxiety I finally received my FAA Report with a passing score which was mainly due to good luck in getting the right questions rather than any innate ability on my part. The following week I enrolled in a CAA approved 35 hour PPL (private pilot license) course at Southend-on-Sea at the mouth of the Thames river in the United Kingdom. The technical papers were not too difficult because they were at a lower standard than the FAA commercial pilot written examination that I had just taken in Frankfurt.

Most days the weather was not good with low cloud bases and precipitation – typical late autumn weather in the U.K! This meant having to deviate from the course line I had drawn on my chart to stay clear of clouds and in so doing risk getting lost. Most of the time I found it was relatively easy to pick up railway lines, roads, reservoirs etc. to help get back on track. There were a couple of instances where I became disorientated while flying to grass airfields with no nearby navaids (navigation aids). My instructor told me that cross-country flying at the PPL level was supposed to be done by pilotage, that is by looking out the window and identifying objects on the ground, rather than by reference to radio navigation aids. That was all very well for him to say that as he had an intimate knowledge of the area, whereas I was seeing it for the first time in marginal weather. Airports such as Biggin Hill had a chaotic traffic pattern with tiger moths over from the Tiger Club in Red Hill spinning on the base leg and metal everywhere going in all directions. The airfield was probably more orderly during the Battle of Britain with a couple of spitfire squadrons.

I had some difficulty on the long triangular solo cross-country flight which was one of the requirements for the license. On the last leg from Biggin Hill to Southend-on-Sea I encountered a strong crosswind on landing and had to go around. During the go-around I flew over a cemetery which did nothing to ease my anxiety. On the second attempt I crabbed to a touchdown and nearly sheared off the landing gear. The problem was that because the training was taking place so rapidly, my instructor hadn’t got around to giving me any instruction in crosswind landing techniques, and I had no idea how to do a cross-controlled forward slip.

The problem with my GFT (general flying test) was that they rolled out an aircraft I’d never flown before – a fully aerobatic Beagle Pup with a joystick. It didn’t give me any joy! The examiner commented that he would make allowances for the fact that I’d never flown the Beagle Pup. After I had completed the required maneuvers including spin recovery, he took over the controls and demonstrated the limits of the flight envelope. By the time he’d finished barrel rolling around clouds and performing “chandelles” all over the sky, I was feeling quite nauseous and regretting having eaten that steak and kidney pie closely followed by an apple turnover with fresh cream. I knew the flight had been satisfactory because he sent one of the instructors into London with the paperwork and an application for the licence.

I started training on October 31, 1969 and took my General Flying Test at Southend-on-Sea airfield on November 10, 1969. Total time logged was 37 hours and 25 minutes. The only reason I mention this is to show that if an average person, who is not afraid of a little hard work, can complete a private pilot’s license in 11 days then you should have no difficulty in doing the same thing in 28 days, especially in a place with fairly decent weather.