Aviation security has undergone a dramatic change in the United States since 9/11. Nearly all airports are fenced, video security covers most hangar spaces and grounds, and as a pilot you are much more likely to receive a visit from local, state and federal law enforcement officials while taxiing your airplane.
As a pilot, what documents are you required to provide to law enforcement? What paperwork should you carry in your airplane, and what paperwork should you NOT carry in your airplane? Are you required to allow law enforcement to board your aircraft upon request?
Every situation is different yet a few general principles apply to most situations.
Be courteous, respectful and calm if approached by law enforcement
A friendly smile and a few “yes sir/yes ma’am can go a long way to smoothing your interaction with law enforcement. You do not need to volunteer information and you are not required to answer their questions, yet answering a few simple questions truthfully and succinctly can turn a tense situation into nothing more than a brief delay. website load testing Law enforcement has a job to do, but there is no need to volunteer information.
According to AOPA, here are a the steps you should follow if you encounter local, state or federal law enforcement while exercising your right as a pilot:
Step 1: Ask the law enforcement official in charge about the nature of his or her inspection of your certificates and your aircraft, including what he or she is intending to do, why, and under what authority.
Step 2: Request to see the credentials of the lead official and any other officials who are present and try to record the names, phone numbers, badge numbers, and agencies of those officials.
Step 3: Law enforcement will most likely ask you to present your pilot and aircraft documents.Note: FAA Regulations 61.3(l) and 61.51(i)(1) state that 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. FAA Regulation 91.203 requires that effective airworthiness and registration certificates be carried on board the aircraft and that the airworthiness certificate be displayed at the cabin or cockpit entrance so that it is legible to passengers or crew, but this regulation does not create a right to board or enter the aircraft. And, 49 USC § 44103(d) requires that the operator make the registration certificate available for inspection when requested by a United States government, state, or local law enforcement officer. Pilot logbooks may not be required to be carried on board the aircraft and, therefore, you may not be required to present them for inspection during the stop by law enforcement officers.
Exercising privileges of recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot certificates: — Must have pilot certificate. — Must have appropriate photo ID. — Must have medical certificate. — Does not have to have logbook in possession, but may be required to present logbook for inspection after receiving written request.
Exercising privileges of sport pilot certificate: — Must have pilot certificate. — Must have appropriate photo ID. — Must have valid U.S. driver’s license or medical certificate. — Must have evidence of required authorized instructor endorsements.
Exercising privileges of student pilot certificate: — Must have student pilot/medical certificate with appropriate endorsements. — Must have appropriate photo ID. — Must have logbook with appropriate endorsements.
Exercising privileges of glider or balloon rating: — Must have pilot certificate. — Must have appropriate photo ID.
Note: Law enforcement may ask for other documents than those specified under FARs. For example, existing guidance by CBP to law enforcement incorrectly suggests that pilots must present for inspection a flight’s weight and balance calculations, aircraft logbooks, etc. AOPA is working to correct this misinformation.
Step 4: The law enforcement officials may ask to search your aircraft or state that they are going to inspect or search the aircraft and its contents visually, physically, or with dogs. Consider responding with the following statements: — “I do not consent to this search.” — “If you remove or disassemble any part of this aircraft, including inspection plates, you may be rendering this aircraft unairworthy.”
Step 5: If you are a member of AOPA Pilot Protection Services, and it is between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern time during a business day, call 800-872-2672 or 301-695-2257 to speak with a Legal Services Plan counselor.
Step 6: You have the right to record the event with a camera. However, law enforcement personnel may react negatively to being photographed or recorded in the conduct of their business and may object. Note the location of any security cameras on the airport ramp. Make detailed written notes during the event or as soon after as practical. Identify any other persons present who may be witnesses to the inspection and search.
Step 7: Check your emotional status! Are you able to continue your flight safely after such an ordeal?
Step 8: Provide AOPA with information about your situation and experience by calling 800-872-2672 or using the online reporting form (www.aopa.org/enforcementform).