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You may need to supply aircraft’s registration certificate. Make sure N-number on certificate matches N-number on aircraft. Also, if you are operating with a temporary certificate, remember that it is only valid for 120 days. The aircraft’s airworthiness certificate will likely be inspected as well. Here again, make sure N-number on certificate matches N-number on aircraft data plate.
Additional aircraft documents that are fair game during a ramp check include operator/flight manual, or operating limitations if aircraft is a homebuilt aircraft, and aircraft’s weight and balance information. For certificated aircraft, weight and balance information should be in manual. For homebuilt aircraft, this information will be contained in aircraft’s operating limitations.
Since a pilot is required to be familiar with all available information for each flight, an inspector may also ask to see aeronautical charts you intend to use on your flight. Make sure charts you have in aircraft or your flight bag are current and appropriate to your flight. This seems like a "no-brainer", but you would be surprised how many pilots are flying with sectional charts that are several years old or instrument approach plates that are more than 56 days old. From a compliance perspective and, more importantly, from a safety perspective, use current and appropriate charts.
Interacting With The Inspector
During course of ramp check, you can also take initiative and ask inspector questions. Ask inspector why he or she suspects you and what information inspector has that leads to his or her suspicion. You can also ask inspector which FAR's you are suspected of violating.
If answers to these questions indicates that a simple misunderstanding is present, you can certainly try to clarify situation for inspector. However, if it appears that inspector’s issues are more than a simple misunderstanding or if you do not receive adequate responses to your questions, do not volunteer any information to inspector. Remain polite and respectful, but don’t give inspector any more information than is required.
Do not try to argue with inspector. Very rarely will you win an argument with inspector. On contrary, an argument with inspector will usually get you in deeper trouble. You will either provide inspector with information that helps inspector make his or her case against you or you will exhibit a “poor compliance attitude”, or both. Don’t do it. Discretion and respect will serve you better.
Most pilots will never find themselves in a ramp check, due to minimal manpower FAA has available for ramp checks. However, if you find yourself in a ramp check, it is survivable. Hopefully this information, along with right attitude, will get you through it. As always, fly safe and fly smart.
Greg is an aviation attorney, author and holds a commercial pilot certificate with instrument rating. His practice concentrates on aviation litigation, including insurance matters and creditor’s rights, FAA certificate actions and aviation related transactional matters. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or check out his website at www.aerolegalservices.com.