As members of the GA community, it is essential for us to help ensure the safety and security of our airports and aircraft. Unauthorized access to the assets by criminals or terrorists can be very damaging to GA. While the theft of actual aircraft is not a significant threat (the Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association (AOPA) notes that fewer than a dozen are stolen each year), there is always the possibility and the danger of more common security threats. Common risks are random acts of vandalism and theft of aircraft parts, particularly expensive avionics.
Because every airport is different, pilots should have multiple methods of protecting their assets. The TSA notes in its 2017 Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airport Operators and Users that “Storage in hangars is one of the most effective methods of securing GA aircraft.” In this article, we will touch on a few security measures you can incorporate to help prevent unauthorized access to and theft from your hangar
1. Follow Proper Security Gate Procedures. The best way to prevent criminal activity in your hangar is to prevent the criminal from even getting in the first place. Keep access gates closed at all times and be sure to follow proper security code measures. The 2017 Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airport Operators and Users notes that lighting security areas on both sides of gates and in selected areas of fencing is highly effective in preventing unwanted access. If lighting seems to be an issue, be proactive and address it immediately with the airport or FBO management.
2. Secure Your Keys. This tip may seem like common sense, but make sure to keep both the hangar and aircraft keys in a secure location. Easily accessible keys are an invitation for theft. To make it as difficult as possible for someone to gain access to your aircraft, you might want to consider whether you keep your aircraft key on the same keychain as your hangar key. Something as little as keeping them on separate keychains can make all the difference.
3. Implement Remote Door Access. You’re a smart person, and you know that in this era of technology, you need to learn to make the most of the available technologies to prevent unauthorized access or tampering in your hangar. Luckily for you, that’s where the HangarBot Door Controller comes in. Enjoy the convenience of remotely opening, closing, or pausing your hangar door directly from HangarBot app. Have complete control over the physical access to the hangar, and immediately know when your door has been opened. And speaking of open, it goes without saying that you need to keep your hangar doors locked anytime you are away.
4. Incorporate Video Surveillance for Your Aircraft. Incorporating surveillance in your aircraft hangar can accomplish two important things. First, if potential intruders are aware that you can review security footage remotely with the HangarBot Hub, they might be deterred from perpetrating a criminal act. There is a built-in camera for day or night with live-streaming video, and automatic photo capture, and when motion is detected, you receive an immediate notification. This could potentially stop the crime when it is happening. Second, in case a perpetrator is not caught in the act, the footage will provide valuable evidence to help identify the person, and perhaps recoup your losses. This will give you peace of mind when you are away from your hangar.
5. Be on the Look Out. The vigilance of other airport users one of the most prevalent methods of enhancing security at GA airports. It’s your responsibility to not only protect your hangar but also be protective of everyone at the airport. It can be easy to let your guard down a bit when you are in a familiar setting. Maybe you’ve experienced this in your airport or when you are familiar with the aircraft, their owners, and the personnel. Regardless of how comfortable you feel, you should still be on the lookout for some of the following suspicious behaviors compiled from various security training outlines:
- Pilots who appear to be under the control of another person
- Any pilot who makes threats or statements inconsistent with normal uses of aircraft
- Pilots determined to avoid others
- Someone doing out-of-the-ordinary videotaping of aircraft or hangars
- Anyone trying to access an aircraft through force—without keys, using a crowbar or screwdriver
These behaviors are just a few recommended areas to look out for. Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t.
Never approach someone you suspect may be about to commit a crime. If there is an immediate threat, contact 911. If you are unsure if there is a threat, contact the airport administrator. They should be able to tell you if the activity you're seeing is legitimate. If it is not, call the TSA GA hotline at (866) GA-SECUR (1.866.427.3287). Developed in partnership with the National Response Center, the GA hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This hotline serves as a centralized system for general aviation pilots, airport operators, and maintenance technicians who wish to report suspicious activity.
By working together, we can help mitigate security risks by limiting the opportunities for unauthorized access to our airports and hangars, making our home airports a safe and attractive option for us all.
Blue Skies and Safe Hangars!