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Aircraft Owners and Law Enforcement Checks

BY Angel MedFlight



The AOPA offers a step-by-step approach on how to respond to law enforcement


By Angel MedFlight Contributor

In this post 9/11 era, airports and fixed base operators are more secure than ever. Thus, pilots and aircraft owners must be aware that at any time they may be stopped by law enforcement to inspect their certificates or aircraft. Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance is a proud supporter of the general and business aviation community and wishes to pass along some information on what pilots and aircraft owners should do if they are ever in this situation.

Nothing is more important than knowing how to handle yourself should you be approached by law enforcement while operating on the ramp of an airport during a flight that is wholly conducted within the United States.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and AOPA Pilot Protection Services advises pilots to “be courteous and respectful, remain calm. In general there is no requirement to answer any questions. If you do answers questions, do so truthfully and succinctly; do not volunteer information.”

The AOPA offers a step-by-step approach on how to respond to law enforcement.

1) It is recommended you ask the law enforcement official in charge about the nature of his or her inspection of your certificates and your aircraft. Inquire as to what he or she is intending to do, why and under what authority.

2) AOPA says you should request to see the lead official’s credentials and any other officials who are present. Try to make a note of their names, phone numbers, badge numbers and the agencies of those officials. But again, remain courteous throughout.

3) You will most likely be asked by law enforcement to present your pilot and aircraft documents. Under FAA regulations, a person must present his or her certificates, authorizations, identification, and other documents required under Part 61 for inspection upon a request by the administrator, NTSB, or any federal, state, or local law enforcement officer.

4) If a law enforcement official asks to search the aircraft or if they state they are going to inspect or search the aircraft and its contents either visually, physically or with dogs — there are a few recommended responses. You can either say, “I do not consent to this search,” or “If you remove or disassemble any part of this aircraft, including the inspection plates, you may be rendering this aircraft unworthy.”

5) It’s recommended that you take detailed written notes during the event or as soon as it becomes practical to do so. Make sure to identify any other persons present who may be witnesses to the inspection and search. You also have the right to record the event with a camera, however law enforcement personnel may object.

6) After undergoing such an ordeal, make sure you are able to continue your flight safely. It’s very important to check your emotional status.

More information can be found through the AOPA and on their website.