21 April 2008

Dispatches From the Line Mk.I

A short funny story.

The Federal Aviation Administration is the bureaucracy in charge of overseeing flight-related issues in the United States. With any governmental organization, there is bound to be red tape, redundant paperwork, and too many lawyers and too many consultants. It is a ponderous organization, with a reputation equal to that of the Secretary of State as far as customer (dis)satisfaction is concerned.

There are some who are cognizant of this reputation, and are nearly apologetic about it, like the gentleman that administered my color vision test. There are others who are unapologetic, understanding that these cowboys with airplanes will attempt anything to get around the rules, and it is their job to stop them. There are still others who approach it as a job, nothing more than doing their small part to keep the skies safe for the millions of people who travel them.

Part of this safety is the ramp check. There are required papers that are needed in the aircraft at all times when the aircraft is flying. It is, obviously, the pilot's job to ensure that all required paperwork is on the aircraft. To ensure compliance, the FAA will conduct ramp checks, where they send an agent out to the local airport, and this agent will inspect aircraft as they come in.

One of the pilots flying for us was subjected to a ramp check. There was nothing out of the ordinary with the papers, and the check lasted perhaps ten minutes. As the inspector was leaving, he handed over his business card to the pilot, and said, with obvious Freudian psychology,

"My name is such-and-such. If you ever need a problem, give me a call!"

Apparently he didn't catch his slip, leaving our pilot wondering if he had meant what he said the whole flight back to Grand Rapids.


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