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Surprise, We’re the FAA!

Having a pilot’s certificate is a privilege that takes a lot of hard work to earn. There are big responsibilities that come along with your pilot certification. One of these responsibilities is flying within legal boundaries. Everything we do as pilots should be done in accordance with the FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations). You never know when you may run into a situation where you’ll be glad you’re flying legally. I am going to tell you about my recent experience with the FAA.

After earning my pilot’s certificate, I took my first trip as pilot-in-command (PIC) to Rough River, Kentucky. I was inbound for a fun-filled weekend at the CSA canard fly-in, which is held there at the end of September every year. After performing a preflight inspection of Sweet Aviation’s Diamond Star and loading up the airplane with all of our gear, my father, grandfather, and I departed Smith Field for Rough River early on a Saturday morning. The air was crisp, the sun had just risen, and the ride was as smooth as glass. An hour and a half later, we arrived at our destination and entered the pattern for downwind. We turned base, then final, and touched down with a direct headwind.

As we rolled out, we came to a stop and then proceeded to exit the runway to park for the weekend. After we parked and shut down the engine, two individuals approached the aircraft as I was completing the checklist. They kindly greeted us and asked how we were doing. Then they said, “Today is your lucky day! We are the FAA, and we’re going to perform a ramp check.” I already knew what they were going to ask for, so I pulled out all of the personal documents that you are required to carry as pilot-in-command, as well as the documents that are required to be onboard the aircraft. The FAA personnel were quickly satisfied with my proof of legal documentation, and they were on their way to find the next “lucky” person.

As a pilot, ask yourself, “Do I have all of the required documents?” Whenever you’re flying as the pilot-in-command, you should be carrying your pilot’s certificate, a current medical certificate, and a current government-issued photo I.D. (such as your driver’s license or permit). You should also ensure your aircraft possesses its own proper documentation. A common acronym people use to remember the required aircraft documentation is AROW. That stands for airworthiness certificate, registration certificate, operating limitations (owner’s manual), and the weight and balance certificate. If you’re current as a pilot and carrying all of the required documents for you and your airplane, then there should be no trouble with the FAA.

So the next time you go flying, take a few moments to ensure that the AROW documents are onboard the aircraft, as well as your required personal documents. The more prepared you are for a ramp check, the more likely you are to have a hassle-free inspection!