We got lucky last week when a would-be bomber failed to pull off an in-flight detonation when nearing Detroit after a flight from Amsterdam. As usual, there were plenty of warning signs and you can bet that travel on the airlines will become an even more trying experience as the authorities try to plug the holes. Perhaps we should just fly naked – THAT would solve the problem!
This week an aircraft was stolen at a local airport around here. The thief, not a pilot, got about 50 yards before tipping the tailwheel aircraft up on it’s nose. It wasn’t terrorism related – the guy just wanted to leave town! But this seems like a good time for us to take stock of GA’s security as well, especially CFIs and flight schools.
I’ve written before that the manufacturers ought to start building in more robust security than the rather modest locks that many aircraft have. It’s always easier to build something in than to add it as an afterthought.This should be simple and inexpensive—TSA—take note: We won’t be securing the cockpit from the passenger compartment since hijacking is NOT the problem.
Listed in my order of preference:
- Throttle/mixture lock – visible, portable to use anywhere and no damage potential. Would like to see these built into the quadrants.
- Tire boot – visible, heavier and bulkier than throttle lock, no damage potential other than to ego if you attempt to taxi with it in place.
- Prop lock – Very visible and bulkier than throttle lock, significant damage to ego and aircraft if start is attempted prior to removal.
- Hidden fuel line shutoff – spoils the deterrent value but a way to secure aircraft without electrical systems. (appropriate FAA 337 form req’d)
- Hidden battery or electrical system kill switch – also non-deterrent but effective (appropriate FAA 337 form req’d).
- Haven’t seen this but perhaps someone has: Locking control lock – seems like it would be easy enough to do – but we always have a few people who attempt takeoff with discouraging results – remember control check.
- Avionics disabler – obviously, we can’t fly if the glass doesn’t power up (just kidding) but perhaps a password is used to unlock the starting circuits (heck, we got passwords for everything else so give me something else to forget!)
The more we do to prevent theft of our aircraft the less the authorities will be attracted to GA and the more they’ll focus on mass transit. While GA is not currently a big target for the terrorist, it doesn’t take much imagination to see the disruption that would be caused by even a small scale success.
Flight schools and rental fleets need to be well secured for very obvious reasons – we’ve had a couple of failures there in the past. CFI’s, remember you have a requirement to review security procedures annually – These are covered in all ASF FIRCS. Once you’re sure a student is NOT of nefarious intent, let’s teach security thoroughly. AOPA’s airport watch program and General Aviation Security online course are great starting points to get some ideas.
Personally, I don’t like any of this but suspect we’ll be dealing with terrorism for a long time to come. Let’s not give the bad guys any GA opportunities!