View Full Version : LHR ramp check on a US major

14th Mar 2016, 22:51
This was reported by an American 777 captain. It sounds like the CAA had a stick up its ass that day. Please tell me this isn't normal.

LHR Ramp check
LAX 777 crews:

The following debrief came in this morning from a 777 crew in another base.

I think it speaks for itself.

Information has been verified and reprinted here in it's entirety.

"Subject: My debrief in LHR today B-777 crew.

Upon arrival at the gate in LHR, the flight was met by two UK CAA Safety Inspectors.

The following was checked in the flight deck before any cockpit crewmember was allowed to depart:

Pilots licenses and Medicals, extra pair of eye glasses if noted on medical certificate, working personal flashlights, all required manuals [and] current revision status, review of the SEL to include [the] AA Operating Certificate and Worldwide Insurance proof, review of [the] flight plan, plotting chart and AIREP forms, TPS and ACARS close out data ([They] kept all these documents with them), all appropriate airport notams documentation, AML - ETOPS sign off and [They] had the flight crew demonstrate proficiency at [in] looking up a logged MEL item, FAR 117 duty time chart found in Part 1 with questions [asked] regarding the [our] ability to check for the current flight legality, [also] checking the current software for the TCAS system with questions asked concerning RA's and TA's - [and] the different advisories and warnings given [displayed].

This was the most thorough ramp check I have ever encountered in my nearly 37 years as a pilot at AA. We were kept in the cockpit for at least 30 mins after our block in time. The Inspectors were courteous and friendly but very thorough and precise.
I don't have a problem with being checked, but just wanted to debrief that this could happen again to other crews and to be prepared when arriving in LHR."

Please make sure your fellow crew members are aware of this email and act accordingly.



14th Mar 2016, 23:00
Had exactly the same in JFK checked by the FAA to the same rigorous standard.

What's the problem?

14th Mar 2016, 23:04
Well sir, if I may do a "touchÚ, 9 years ago I had an equally gruelling and very aggressive ramp check in EWR by the FAA (and they weren't too polite, to be truthful.) Like the AA skipper, I had no problem being inspected, but some guys do have a 'stick up their ass' (beautifully put, by the way!) I'm not doing a 'Brit versus Yank' here (boring and childish) just saying that you can get unlucky anywhere.

The worst one I ever heard of was in Marseille, where my colleague thought he was about to be carted off to jail at one point - his alternate had changed from the original because it had fogged out, and the inspector wanted to see all the new alternate fuel planning. When the F/O actually produced it in precise detail, he nominated him for canonisation.

14th Mar 2016, 23:10
What's the big deal - CAA/FAA guys doing their job. Happens all over the world but of course they have to be insulted for doing it.
In fact it looks like the LHR guys went easy on them... ;)

chimbu warrior
14th Mar 2016, 23:31
I too have no issue with a thorough ramp check, however the inspector retaining documentation is highly unusual. If they found no irregularity, why keep it?

Pretty sure it remains the property of the airline (and indeed is usually required to be retained by the carrier) and can only be sequestered by the authority if required in the course of an investigation, although I stand to be corrected.

15th Mar 2016, 08:06
Surely checking crew proficiency and systems knowledge is not an accepted/authorised part of a ramp check?

No, it's not. I have had a number of SAFA inspections, and they were nothing like this.
It is also unacceptable for the inspectors to delay a flight unless they find a major problem.

15th Mar 2016, 08:55
It is also unacceptable for the inspectors to delay a flight unless they find a major problem.
Flight wasn't delayed. Check was on arrival. "Depart" in debrief means leave aircraft.

15th Mar 2016, 09:01
No, it's not. I have had a number of SAFA inspections, and they were nothing like this.
It is also unacceptable for the inspectors to delay a flight unless they find a major problem.

I agree however my most 'thorough' ramp check took place in JFK where apart from the normal checks and procedures we were asked to derive a ZFW from the load and balance manual, demonstrate a BITE test of the EGPWS system (??? never done that before!) and explain our understanding of the TCAS system. All a bit odd.

Then the inspectors declared that they had found one of the PCA access panel quick release fasteners open and wanted the complete PCA ramp history of the aircraft to find who left it open and demanded to know why it hadn't been seen on the walk around.

It took 30 minutes of demonstrating that the latch can 'look' closed but not be fully seated before the inspector grudgingly acceded that no misdemeanor had occurred on the walk around!

It often depends upon how difficult a day the inspectors have had as, with the best will in the world, they are the last people you want to see on the gate when you put the park brake on!!!

As the penguins of Madagascar state 'Smile and wave boys, smile and wave'. :)

Hotel Tango
15th Mar 2016, 09:28
I believe you can be subjected to equally rigorous ramp checks by the Dutch authorities at Schiphol. Good to see aviation authorities doing their job!

15th Mar 2016, 09:47
Despite having a large international network these days I see the 'island mentality' is still alive and well at AA :)

Heathrow Harry
15th Mar 2016, 12:46
The authorities in EVERY country have a duty to see that all the paperwork is correct - that means occasionaly someone will get the works

Unlikely to happen again and congrats that it was all OK but unless they check who would ever know if it wasn't??

15th Mar 2016, 13:17
Had a few ramp checks myself, one of them at JFK. Don't know what they check outside but in the cockpit it's about paperwork only (licenses and ship's docs) and very courteous and efficient.
Thought that there was an understanding that the checks should not cause unduly delays (unless something comes up of course).
Now writing down license numbers should be fine, but doing oral exams about FTL's is another matter.

About TCAS, I see the relevancy of checking the 7.1 upgrade in place (just became mandatory), I think for the pilot just mentioning the words "level off" would indicate compliance. Takes 2 seconds, no delays..
And the software is not our cup of tea. Just get the engineer.

15th Mar 2016, 14:43
Over the years I have been subjected to many such checks in the USA. EWR and LAX seemed to particularly prone to them. The inspectors were always polite and professional and the delay was usually quite short, less than 30 minutes. I never saw it as a problem, just part of the job, and theirs.

15th Mar 2016, 14:47
In my 32 year airline career I have seen just one such detailed check as described by cactusbusdrvr. It was Christmas day a couple of years ago in NRT arriving from a US gateway city. When the jetway docked with the aircraft 4 Japanese Aviation Inspectors boarded the aircraft. Two of them proceeded to the cockpit identified themselves with credentials and informed me as the Captain of the aircraft/crew inspection. The remaining two inspectors were there to conduct a cabin inspection and introduced themselves to the lead flight attendant. Each team of 2 inspectors had a lengthy checklist that included all the items mentioned by cactusbusdrvr. Every conceivable item you could imagine related to the operation of the flight and aircraft was on the two separate checklists. The inspectors checked extra sets of glasses, confirmed flashlights worked, examined ops certificate and insurance paperwork. The inspectors who I would say spoke level 4 English had separate checklists for the cabin and the cockpit. They did examine our inflight paperwork which we had to retrieve from the cockpit trash bag and were surprised no archiving was required for that flight. There was a rather extensive discussion of our arrival fuel which was well above the required minimum. They did not retain any of the flight paperwork, I am not sure if this was because of the coffee dripping from the flight plan after retrieving it from the trash bag. No questions about operation of the aircraft or aircraft systems were asked. The cabin inspection was also very extensive, checks of all lighted signs, fire extinguishers and every item of emergency equipment were examined. Flight attendant manuals were also checked as I recall. The inspectors were exceedingly polite during a very extensive 45 minute inspection. As chance would have it in my recent training for this aircraft I had received a 30 minute class on how to accomplish an aviation authority inspection in a foreign country. Never a topic for a training class I have seen before or again but exceedingly valuable as we had recently switched to all electronic certificates of insurance and ops certificates. This seemed to be the first time the inspectors had seen electronic documentation and there was several minutes of discussion amongst themselves in Japanese over these items on their checklist. I will not say it does not happen but in my 30,000+ hours it was only the second time I have received an inspection from an aviation authority other than the US FAA. The first was in Managua years ago on a divert there for a maintenance issue and the inspection was very brief and administrative, licenses and medical certificates.

As cactusbusdrvr observed from the email posted there is always a chance of an inspection anywhere in the world. With the recent switch to all electronic everything that seems to be taking place one might want to take the time to locate the appropriate documents for operation of the flight and aircraft. The class I had received on aviation authority inspections in a foreign country was invaluable on this topic.

15th Mar 2016, 15:45
The EASA SAFA ramp inspection guidance material (https://easa.europa.eu/system/files/dfu/SAFA%20Ramp%20Inspections%20Guidance%20Material%20-%20Version%202.0.pdf) can be found openly, and is pretty thorough.

15th Mar 2016, 15:57
With the recent switch to all electronic everything that seems to be taking place one might want to take the time to locate the appropriate documents for operation of the flight and aircraft. The class I had received on aviation authority inspections in a foreign country was invaluable on this topic.

Anecdotally, this can indeed be a show stopper if the Federales somewhere need to see some insurance or training certificate that is now stored 'in the cloud'. Some authorities still only recognize paper documents and finding someone in ops several timezones away who knows how to send an international fax can be a challenge these days.

And, I've heard of a European authority detaining an aircraft until someone could find their FCC Radiotelephone Operator Permit. I thought those had gone the way of the ICAO crewmember certificate that we used to carry. But, I'm sure I have my FCC permit here somewhere, let me look... ;)

As far as I can remember, I've only been checked on the line by the feds once over the years. I have had the FAA (and a couple of DGCA's) observe training in the sim and the plane as is traditional.

I was an FO in WAW doing the walkaround for an ETOPS crossing when the 'friendly stranger' approached and showed me his credentials. He was from the FAA. Turns out he was in Poland to work with U.S. certification of some agricultural aircraft, probably an AN-2 variant. He and his mechanic partner actually had tickets but he wanted to ride up front so he gave us an air carrier inspection which was professional but also very pleasant.

When it was time to start down, the fed asked if the FAA mechanic could ride in the cockpit for the landing. These days that would probably be a trick question involving regs, tables, the TSA and the FCOM. Anyway, the captain said OK and the only debrief was warm thanks for the ride.

15th Mar 2016, 17:35
The most thorough ramp inspection I've undergone (very similar to the OP) was in HKG. I've heard FRA inspectors occasionally do the same.

15th Mar 2016, 20:45
I understand 'occurrences' in the country's airspace are checked prior to the inspection also - this most likely could be the reason for some technical questions on a particular subject.

Surely checking crew proficiency and systems knowledge is not an accepted/authorised part of a ramp check?

Where does it say that?

Never been questioned about my knowledge of anything other then location of papers.
In that case my answer would have been: "too tired and stressed to remember, let me check with my company, handling agent, manuals, union representative, lawyer etc..." :-)

Really - is that what you'd do on company checks as well. Your airline operates into other countries on the basis of it being compliant - don't know if they would appreciate your lack of cooperation.

15th Mar 2016, 21:42
Surely checking crew proficiency and systems knowledge is not an accepted/authorised part of a ramp check? Well, if nothing else the record might show that not only was the inspection totally clean, but that the crew really knew their stuff too. That's a good thing to be on a record!

From a passenger's point of view it's good to know that ramp checks happen. Standards slip unless compliance is checked. All good stuff.

What I find odd is that whilst the regulators seem quite happy to be firm on the 'small' stuff like this, they seem (judging by some of the accidents that have actually happened in recent years, and constant worries on forums like this) collectively unwilling to be firm on the really 'big' things like over reliance on automation, crew hours / rest, etc. Writing as a passenger (and as an engineer who has to consider the true meaning of risk) I don't want the regulators caving in all the time on those matters, using short term broad brushed statistics to justify doing so.

I suppose it ultimately all gets a bit political. It'd be a brave regulator to ban all pilots from a different country flying airliners into their airspace because they thought that the other regulator wasn't keeping their pilots up to standard (e.g. being able to land serviceable aircraft on calm sunny days without the usual instrumented assistance). That kind of lone action would go right up the management chain to the national government very quickly indeed. So how bad would things have to get before that actually happened?

15th Mar 2016, 21:47
Having flown worldwide for forty years, the only time I have had a ramp check was in JFK. The inspector was an older fellow who was very pleasant and apologised a number of times, that surprised me. Anyway all that was checked was the aircrew licences plus medical certificates and my two pairs of glasses, all the usual aircraft documents (not manuals) and then he was on his way.
Having heard from some colleagues that ramp checks can be a little full on, I was quite surprised how easy this inspection was, not that we had anything to hide!

16th Mar 2016, 03:02
Thanks for the responses. I was wondering if the FAA (Friendly Aviation Agency) was pulling similar stiunts on foreign carriers. I have had many line checks and ramp checks in my career but I have never had anything like the ramp check described. Corporate guys do get the rubber glove treatment from what I read but I did not think this was normal for an air carrier inspection. Usually it's just logbook, license and registration and a glance at the release to see if you had any MELs.

My issue with this would be that I just arrived from flying all night, I'm ready to go to the hotel and nap, and some azzhat wants me to demo aircraft systems and calculate duty time. I don't calculate anything at 8 am after flying all night except the time needed to hit the bunk.

5 APUs captain
16th Mar 2016, 12:18
LHR or LGW - it's ALWAYS like that.... always delay!!!

16th Mar 2016, 14:37
We were ramp inspected at CDG years ago. They were very pleasant but I felt they were there to find something, which they did on the walk around, which was very obscure and something a line pilot was not expected to check. We were delayed about :45 minutes.

It is ramp inspection not a line check. You inspect on an inspection. I would not subject myself nor my crew to an oral from someone who is not licensed to conduct such an oral.

16th Mar 2016, 14:47

What? You need a licence for that these days ;)

16th Mar 2016, 16:08
Hi guys,

Just to make clear, a SAFA/SACA inspector is NOT ALLOWED to ask any system, SOP or operational questions to any crewmember.

They also MUST NOT delay the flight except for safety reasons.

Otherwise, be co÷perative, friendly, offer them a coffee, and sign their document.
Signing de Inspection finding document does NOT mean that you agree, but merely is a signature that you received the document.

Piltdown Man
16th Mar 2016, 19:22
I have been checked many times. Locations include NUE, FRA, BRE, HEL, FLR (three times, twice by the same guy), NCL, and BRU. With the exception of BRU, every single check was efficient, to the point and conducted by professionals who knew what they were looking for and when in doubt asked questions. It was a pleasure to have them. But the guy in BRU was a plonker. He wanted to know why we didn't perform fuel checks at every waypoint on the listed on the flight plan (AMS - BRU, 19 minute flight). I told him that he was clearly not qualified to check us and told him to p!ss off. And he did. Never heard another word.


17th Mar 2016, 00:37
Forty odd years and never got checked once! Lucky me, some poor so and so probably got done a dozen times in lieu!

When a thorough ramp check takes place the word gets around the company fast and it is an opportunity for everyone to make sure all their documentation and amendments are up to date. No harm done.

Friend used to be an inspector, if a licence was wrong, medical out of date then the crew would be affected, otherwise everything else wrong would be taken up with the company.

17th Mar 2016, 04:00
Complete check by FAA in Las Vegas ... All documentation, cockpit crew by FAA flight operation personnel, cabin crew by FAA cabin inspectors and all aircraft documentation by FAA maintenance inspectors and they also completed a external check of the aircraft I was informed Although a foreign registered aircraft we do carry America citizens in USA airspace ..... Totally ageed with the inspector ...
Also inspected by Swiss CAA as the aircraft which I had landed had never flown in Swiss airspacee... This was all completed having also flown on a long transatlantic night flight ....
While flying in a countries airspace I abide by their air regulations no matter where the aircraft is registered ......I am the visitor ...... Their Ball

Metro man
17th Mar 2016, 11:15
I was asked questions on duty time limitations and going into discretion by a couple of inspectors in the crew room while they were conducting an audit. The F/O chose a table next to the one they were using when he arrived for work ahead of me.:ugh:

18th Mar 2016, 01:13
JCAB is thorough all right. We have turns and last time my Captain at the time could hardly be bothered. Showed his docs then off to lunch and ciggies with the girls. Myself left to entertain about 4 inspectors. (Including going down to the ramp to retrieve the cockpit trash bag all paperwork suitably binned and coffee soaked upon block in).

I don't remember anybody bringing me anything from Lawson's either and I went hungry!

18th Mar 2016, 04:40
SAFA inspections are required by ICAO through ICAO Doc 8335 and standards of ICAO Annex 1, 6 and 8. There are 54 inspection items included in the check, furthermore; not all 54 items need to be checked if time is a factor. It is not the policy to delay a flight nor is it policy to delay boarding of the flight or the disembarking of a flight.

Nor is it the policy to ask questions on the operators procedures or anything that gets into SOPs. That is left up to the State of Oversight of the Operator.

Many operators are utilizing EFBs to hold their aircraft documentation. Some SAFA Inspectors have difficulties with this one however; there is no 'Standard' by ICAO on how documents must be presented. To clarify, the documents (AOC-OPS Specs etc) can be electronically held. The EASA ramp inspection program actually has instructions clearly giving inspectors guidance on documents.

One part of the check is to determine the Version of TAWS and TCAS. On many newer aircraft , there is actually no way for the flight crew to determine this because there is no test function. Inspectors are not in a position to request flight crews to provide evidence of the versions if it is actually a maintenance function. In such a case, as a flight crew member, you can argue this point successfully.

One item that regularly creates problems on inspections are crews who show up with no license or medical. These innocuous pieces of paper are required to be in your possession however; depending on how efficiently your company works, a quick phone call and documents sent via email and printed, can be the difference between going out on schedule or taking a delay. And yes, you are required to have a second pair of reading glasses available, if required on your medical.

The technical inspection can get detailed. Missing fasteners on leading edges of panels are one source of findings. As a flight crew member, not much you can do about that one, except to write it up in the tech log, if you see it on a walk-around and let your maintenance department get the work done.

You can get the latest information on SAFA here. (https://safa.easa.europa.eu/site/safalib) Most States who have signed the ICAO Chicago Convention, use this material as their base.

A Very Civil Pilot
18th Mar 2016, 09:15
I had a very similar ramp check to the original poster's experience, by the CDAG in Toulouse. It's my first one under EASA, so perhaps there are new requirements to be followed.

Metro man
18th Mar 2016, 11:08
I've been checked once in nearly thirty years for the spare pair of glasses, company line check rather than a ramp check. Didn't check that the prescription was the same as the pair I was using though, which I assume would be beyond his capabilities.

18th Mar 2016, 13:37
Why should ramp checkers be offered coffee ?

I have never done that and I never will nor have I had any major problems with any of the inspectors. I'm not impolite or not co-operating but I'm there to do my job and my contract no way in hell include pouring coffee for some wannabe yellow vests asking my license and spare glasses after a 13 hour work day.

Especially not in Nice or Bordeaux, France.

18th Mar 2016, 15:50
Be nice & ask them if they wish to delay the flt. If on a turn around. If they say no carry on what you were doing eg loading the fmc. If they then start to ask more or ask for docs ask the same question & add for flight safety reasons you should not be distracted carrying out flight required tasks. So when they say ok we delay the flight stop what you were doing & give them un divided attention.
Works every time but be nice & you'll find they won't be asking questions as they have to explain the reason for the flt delay.
& yes they are only doing their job but it should not mean distracting you from a flight related task.

Heathrow Harry
18th Mar 2016, 16:04
Do unto others..................