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?
When you get in the plane to fly, you are required by FAR 61.3 to have three personal documents with you.
These are the first things the Inspector will want to see, so you better make sure you've got them.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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