FAA Ramp Checks: A Survival Guide

  • ON Aug 24, 2015
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  • BY Christopher Ison
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  • IN Pilot Law

You’ve landed, taxied to the ramp, and are tying your Cessna 172 down for the night. But who is that guy walking across the ramp toward your plane…oh no, it’s the FAA! When you see the badge clipped to his shirt that says “FAA” in big letters, you’ll probably want to climb into the baggage compartment and hide, but don’t. If you understand the “Ramp Check” process and are properly prepared for an unexpected chat with the inspector, the chances are you will survive.

 

Remember back to when your flight instructor briefly mentioned “Ramp Checks.” It is likely he or she did not spend too much time going over the process of a “Ramp Check” because they seem fairly rare. If you are a flight instructor, it may be a smart idea to have a mock “Ramp Check” with your students before sending them off to solo. Nonetheless, what is a “Ramp Check?” Essentially, these checks are conducted to ensure that a licensed pilot or student pilot are conducting flight operations safely and within the parameters prescribed by the Federal Aviation Regulations. While most checks end with the inspector shaking your hand and saying “everything looks good,” it is possible for the check to result in an enforcement action. If the FAA initiates an enforcement action as a result of a ramp check, it is possible that your pilot’s license could be suspended or revoked, and/or you could face a civil fine. The stakes are high.

 

When will a “Ramp Check” occur? A ramp check is not scheduled and is unpredictable. A check will commonly occur when an inspector observes an unsafe operation in the traffic pattern or on the ramp, is notified by ATC of an unsafe operation, or just feels like checking out your operation to make sure you are in compliance with the rules. If you are approached by someone claiming to be an FAA inspector, make sure you ask for identification before proceeding with the check, as the inspector is required to present identification prior to initiating a check. If the inspector does not present identification, make note, as that may become part of your defense if the check proceeds to an enforcement action. Furthermore, the inspector may not detain you if it means you will miss a flight or an appointment; he or she may only detain you long enough to check your records.

 

Once the “Ramp Check” is initiated, however, what can you do to ensure you keep your nose clean with the FAA? Most checks will include an inspection of the pilot’s airman and medical certificates, the aircraft paperwork, and an exterior inspection of an aircraft. Your pilot certificate will be inspected to make sure that you are licensed for the operations that you a conducting. For instance, if the inspector witnesses you landing in IFR conditions, he or she will look at your certificate to make sure that you are an instrument rated pilot. Furthermore, your medical certificate will be checked to make sure you are conducting operations within your class medical. Again, the inspector is making sure that for instance you aren’t conducting commercial operations with a third class medical. And if you are a student, your logbook will be checked for records of currency, solo endorsement, etc.

 

As to your aircraft, the inspector will want to make sure you have certain documentation/equipment onboard. Do you remember ARROW from your training – now is the time to use it! The inspector will want to see that you have with you your aircraft’s airworthiness certificate, aircraft registration, weight and balance information, and operating handbook. Beyond that, the inspector is authorized to inspect: the aircraft’s minimum equipment list (if applicable), Aeronautical charts (if applicable), the general airworthiness of the aircraft, the ELT battery, the seats/safety belts. Furthermore, the inspector can conduct a VOR check. It is important to remember, however, that the inspector is not authorized to board your aircraft without the knowledge of the entire crew; however, the inspector may inspect the exterior and look through the windows. Again, if the inspector boards your aircraft without the knowledge of the crew, note that, as it may become part of your defense if the check leads to an enforcement action.

 

Always remember to prepare for an unexpected FAA “Ramp Check,” as preparation is your only chance to survive one of these checks. Furthermore, if the check is in response to a possible violation, anything you say can be used against you. If you have questions about “Ramp Checks” or are the subject of a check, contact your team at The Ison Law Firm. We are standing-by 24/7 to vector you through legal turbulence…call us at 863-712-9472 or e-mail to Anthony@ThePilotLawyer.com.

Temporary Resident Permits for Pilots: How Can I Enter Canada With a DUI on My Record?

  • ON Apr 28, 2015
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  • BY The Ison Law Group
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  • IN Pilot Law

If you are a pilot and have received a DUI in the United States, one question you may be asking is “how can I enter Canada with a DUI on my record?” Without a Canadian temporary resident permit, it may be close to impossible to enter Canada with a criminal record. Ever since September 11th, the Canadian government has become more stringent on who gets to cross their border. As a result, when you attempt to cross the Canadian border, you will be subject to a criminal background check. The question that will be asked of you by Canadian border officials will be “have you ever been convicted of a crime?” If the answer is “yes,” you will be prohibited from entering the country. As a pilot, this could heavily affect your ability to get employment with an airline or maintain employment with the airline you already work for.
 
Entering Canada with a DUI on your record does not necessarily have to put the skids on your career as a pilot. However, in order to regain eligibility for entry to Canada, you must understand the process of overcoming criminal inadmissibility. First, the wrong assumption a lot of pilots make is that they are free to cross the Canadian border in their capacity as a crew member because neither the FAA nor their employing airline took action in response to their DUI or other criminal conviction. Again, this assumption is wrong. What happens in the United States is of no concern to the Canadian border officials. Nonetheless, what does matter to the Canadians is whether your criminal record can be rehabilitated for admission to the country. Unfortunately, this can be a very long process if you don’t take affirmative actions, such as obtaining a temporary resident permit.
 
In order to apply for “deemed rehabilitation,” the following criteria must be met:

  • You have a minimum of one misdemeanor conviction;
  • At least five or as many as ten years have elapsed since you completed the sentences for the conviction; and
  • The conviction would not be considered a serious crime in Canada.
    In evaluating each case, Canada officials use Canadian definitions of what constitutes a misdemeanor or a serious offense. In Canada, serious offenses include theft, assault, manslaughter, dangerous driving and driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

 
If more than 5 years have elapsed since all sentences related to the conviction(s) were completed, but you are not eligible for rehabilitation at a port of entry because of the nature or number of convictions, you may apply for rehabilitation through a Canadian Consulate in the United States. This process is expensive, time consuming, and will likely require you to hire an attorney.
 
Nonetheless, as a pilot, you may have the option of obtaining a temporary resident permit in Canada. If you are otherwise inadmissible but have a reason to travel to Canada that is justified in the circumstances, you may be issued a temporary resident permit. To be eligible for a temporary resident permit, your need to enter or stay in Canada must outweigh the health or safety risks to Canadian society, as determined by an immigration or border services officer. Even if the reason you are inadmissible seems minor, you must demonstrate that your visit is justified. One downside is that there is no guarantee that you will be issued a temporary resident permit.
 
For a pilot, being charged with a DUI or any other crime can be disastrous. Protect your career or potential career and contact your aviation attorney if you are ever charged with a DUI or other crime. Let us take on the Canadian border officers for you. Let us vector your through your legal turbulence. Call The Ison Law Group today, toll-free at 1-855-LAW-1215.

ADD/ADHD Diagnosis…Your Roadblock in the Sky

  • ON Apr 08, 2015
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  • BY The Ison Law Group
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  • IN Pilot Law

If you have ever been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and/or have taken medications such as Ritalin, Focalin, Concerta, or Adderall, you could have a difficult time being granted a FAA medical. The FAA requires a special decision by the FAA Aerospace Medical Certification Division before granting a medical to any applicant that has been diagnosed ADD/ADHD at any point. While denial of a medical may be appropriate in some situations, those applicants that no longer require treatment for ADD/ADHD will likely face an uphill battle in obtaining an otherwise deserved medical.
 
Nevertheless, if you have a history of ADD/ADHD, you must fight the temptation to be dishonest regarding your diagnosis on a medical application. Failure to disclose carries serious civil and criminal penalties; it also voids the exam and any certificate issued. A surprising number of airmen who discover that a medical condition is disqualifying find another AME and omit the relevant information on the physical, which is almost automatically revealed when two exams of the same (or near) date are found.
 
If you have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD or have been medicated with drugs such as Ritalin, Focalin, Concerta, or Adderall, contact the aviation attorneys at The Ison Law Group. We can help you coordinate the necessary paperwork, medical appointments, and legal/medical jargon that is required to earn your FAA medical. As your liaison between you and the FAA, we can help mitigate unnecessary medical appointments and expensive diagnostic testing. Let us take on the FAA for you. Let us vector your through your legal turbulence. Call us today, toll-free at 1-855-LAW-1215.

FAA Letter of Investigation …The FAA’s Secret Weapon

  • ON Apr 08, 2015
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  • BY The Ison Law Group
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  • IN Pilot Law

Nothing can ruin your day quite like receiving a dreaded FAA letter of investigation in the mail. If handled improperly, the FAA letter of investigation could lead to an enforcement action and possibly threaten your livelihood or FAA certificated privileges. Understanding why you received your letter of investigation and what you should do in response is critical to thwarting a possible enforcement action.
 
If the FAA has reason to believe that you (as a certificated pilot, air carrier, mechanic, repair station, etc) violated a Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR), you will likely receive a letter of investigation from a local FAA aviation safety inspector. The FAA letter of investigation can relate to the approval, denial, suspension, modification, or revocation of your certificate. The overall purpose of this letter is to give you access to information as required by the Pilot’s Bill of Rights. A letter of investigation will give you information on the nature of the investigation and that you are entitled to applicable air traffic data.
 
The two most important things to remember about your letter of investigation are that: 1) you are not required to respond to your letter of your investigation and 2) any response you submit to your letter of investigation may be used against you in an FAA enforcement action.
 
The wording of a letter of investigation tends to make you believe that you must respond within 10 days of receiving the letter. This is not true; no response is required. It is easy to want to respond to a letter of investigation, especially if you feel you’ve done nothing wrong. This is a temptation you must try and avoid. Information you give to the FAA inspector could incriminate you in a possible FAA enforcement action. Sometimes assertions made by the FAA are completely incorrect and a properly worded response can assist in making allegations disappear.
 
The best thing to do if you receive an FAA letter of investigation is to call your aviation attorneys at the Ison Law Group right away. If a response is deemed appropriate, we can help you address and explain any allegations brought against you. Your team at the Ison Law Group can help mitigate damage, minimize investigation, and help you avoid providing admissions or other evidence that could later be used against you. Let us vector your through your legal turbulence. Call us today, toll-free at 1-855-LAW-1215.