International Ops 2018

Flight Service Bureau | OPSGROUP

Tag: Ramp Checks

EU SAFA ramp checks NOT on the rise – but are you ready for one?

In Short: SAFA ramp checks are continuing at the normal pace. Avoid the common mistakes of Fuel/Calc and Flight Routing (with SID/STAR), PRNAV/RNAV-1, incorrect flight plans and TCAS 7.1. If you do get a finding, expect to get a follow up ramp check the next few times you visit, to ensure compliance.

There have been more reports in Airport Spy recently which suggest there may be an increase in SAFA (Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft) ramp checks in Europe. So we reached out to a dozen SAFA offices around Europe to check if it was true.

Here’s what they told us:

  1. No, they’re not conducting significantly more ramp checks at the moment.
  2. No, they’re not looking more closely at certain items.
  3. Rather, the items checked during the SAFA/SACA inspections are based on a risk based approach and can differ from operator to operator (for example depending on findings raised during previous inspections). Meaning that operators who get ramp checked with findings will most likely get ramp checked again, to see if they’ve sorted out the problems!

Common Findings

But what are some common findings and the things to make sure you are doing right so you don’t get caught out?

  1. Fuel Calculation and Flight Routing: Alternates must be planned with a SID/STAR routing.

In many parts of the world it is common to plan DCT but not in many European countries. Non-compliance during a ramp inspection could lead to either a Cat 2 finding when sufficient fuel was taken into account such that the required fuel is above the minimum, or a Cat 3 finding when this was not the case.

  1. PRNAV/RNAV-1 capability.

Non-compliance constitutes a Cat 3 finding when landing at airports (such as EHAM/Amsterdam) that require it. The finding will also be reported to the aeronautical oversight department who can give fines for such violations.

  1. Filing incorrect flight plans – specifically saying you are 8.33 MHz equipped and PRNAV/RNAV-1 capable.

Again, this could lead to findings and fines beyond the SAFA programme. An easy one to miss.

  1. TCAS 7.1

The TCAS 7.1 requirement became mandatory in EU Airspace from 1st of December 2015 and became a worldwide standard under ICAO from 1st of January 2017.  One to also watch out for if operating to EU overseas territories in the Caribbean where this requirement has also been implemented and during ramp inspections is enforced the same way.

How to prepare for one?

We wrote a 2017 article all about how to make a ramp check painless.

We have also updated the FSB SAFA Ramp Checklist. Download it here.

Keep a copy with you and run through it before you head towards the EU.

Back in 2016, EASA published new guidelines for inspectors to assess which aircraft should be prioritised for SAFA ramp checks in Europe and SAFA compliant states. For an overview of those guidelines, check out our article.

Have you been ramp checked recently? Let us know, by joining OpsFox! This is a community system, where every Pilot, Air Traffic Controller, Dispatcher, Handler, and CAA can add categorized reports, based on what they see and know at their home base or visited airport. Opsfox blurs the white noise and keeps only the relevant and current information at your fingertips, before you fly.

Extra Reading:

Expect breathalyzer during German Ramp checks

German authorities confirm they have been conducting random breathalyzer tests during ramp checks since as far back as Jan 2017, despite this not being part of the official EU SAFA ramp inspection guidelines.

In Dec 2016, following the accident of the Germanwings Flight 9525, EASA published a proposal to the European Commission to better support pilot mental fitness. One of their recommendations was to introduce random alcohol screening as a part of ramp checks within the EU.

Although that proposal has still not been adopted yet, local authorities in Germany say they can still perform these tests on the basis of German national law alone.

Have you had a recent ramp check anywhere with any surprise items not part of the standard checklist? Comment below…

Further reading

Making a Ramp Check painless (with checklist)

Hello, we’re from the government and we’re here to help“.

The SAFA Program (Safety Assessment  of Foreign Aircraft) is not exclusive to the EU. Your aircraft can be inspected under the program in 47 different countries.

Here are the key points:

  • Ramp checks are possible in every country in the world – but follow a more regulated and common structure in SAFA Countries – totalling 47 – see the map and list below.
  • There is a standard checklist that is used by Inspectors in all SAFA countries, which you should be familiar with – see further down.
  • Three categories of findings have been defined. A “Category 1” finding is called a minor finding; “Category 2” is a significant finding and “Category 3” a major finding. The terms “minor”, “significant” and “major” relate to the level of influence on safety.
  • If there is a “corrective actions before flight authorised” finding – then the inspector is concerned and a repair must be made before the aircraft is released to fly.
SAFA

Unless your aircraft looks like this, you have little to worry about.

Here’s how a ramp check normally goes down:

  • The flight selected will either be your last of 6 legs for the day, or after a gruelling 12 hour jetlag-inducer, or at 3am when you were thinking about a quick nap during the turnaround. This much is guaranteed.
  • As you pull on to the stand, you will notice more yellow vests than normal hanging around.
  • Two of these will be your friendly ramp inspection team (to be fair, they almost always are)
  • A short time later, those yellow vests will be in the cockpit, and the first request will be for a look at your license, medical, aircraft documents (like Insurance, Airworthiness), and flight paperwork. Make sure you’ve done your fuel checks and there are a few marks on the flight plan.
  • If you get a good cop, bad cop scenario, one will disappear down the back (this will be the nice guy) and check the cabin, while the first will stay and ask you tough questions about the TCAS system.
  • Some time later, you’ll get a list of findings. The average check is probably about 30 minutes.
  • You can be guaranteed they will always have at least one finding – which will probably be obscure.
  • Sign off the checklist, and you’re on your way.

 

Some interesting points:

  • The Inspectors can ask you for manuals, documents, or guidance – but they are not supposed to test your knowledge of procedures, regulations, or technical matters. This doesn’t always happen in practice – so if you get a tough question – just say “I don’t know” – and let them note it if they want to. This isn’t a classroom test.
  • This guidance is given to Inspectors: Delaying an operator for a non-safety related issue is not only frustrating to the operator, it also could result in unwanted human factor issues with possible negative effects on the flight preparation. They can (should) only delay your flight for a safety related issue.
  • Some recent favourites: TCAS 7.1 – show me it and how it works (they just want to see that you have the current version), extra pair of eye glasses if noted on medical certificate, show me working personal flashlights, show me the aircraft manuals, and how you know they are up to date, show me your duty time rules.
  • Remember, it’s not you that’s being inspected. It’s your aircraft. If you’re uncomfortable with the questions, get them noted and allow your operator to discuss later.
  • Every inspector is a little different. Work with them and you’ll find that 90% of your ramp checks will be over in 20 minutes with little issue.
  • That guy that says he’s flown for 30 years and never had a ramp check probably isn’t lying. There aren’t that many of them, and you might go a long time without them.
  • Private Operators – especially in GA (even more so under the 5700kg mark) – are far less likely to get ramp checked. EASA guidelines do apply to General Aviation, but they are far more interested in Commercial Operators.

 


The Countries

SAFA

47 Participating States – those not in the EU are in bold below, and green/orange above.

Albania, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Republic of Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

 

The Checklist

 

Download by clicking above, or here: FSB SAFA RampChecklist

 

The Stats

These are interesting as background to the Program – although they are from 2012, which is the date of the most recent report from EASA on the SAFA program (thanks International Flight Resources for the summary)

 

– 2012 had just over 11,000 inspections performed, over twice as many as 2005.
– Most frequent private operator’s country of registration inspected was USA, Isle of Man, Germany
– Frequency of inspections is almost evenly split between EU and Non-EU countries. Largest number of SAFA locations were France (71), Italy (34), UK (31) and Germany (30)
– On average, 40 of the 54 possible items were inspected each time with 46% of the findings labeled “Significant”
– “Significant” findings are reported to the operator and the registered CAA. These will also require “Corrective action” prior to flight
– Latin American/Carib operators had the most number of findings
– USA and African operators were tied for second place
– Largest percentage of operators inspected: Germany (7.0%), Russian Federation and UK (6.8%), Turkey (4.9%) and USA (4.5%). France was 2.2%.

 

Resources:

 

How did your recent ramp check go down? Comment below …

International Ops Bulletin
Get our weekly Ops Bulletin on changes and dangers: Airport closures, Security issues, ATC restrictions, Airspace changes, and New Charts
Sent to you every Wednesday
Thanks, I'm already a reader.