Common Sense for General Aviation

General aviation security was a hot topic two years ago when the TSA published its proposed rule for the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP). The agency is back at the drawing board re-evaluating its proposal. Many think GA security means expensive cameras, miles of fencing, and around-the-clock staffing — unrealistic security measures for most GA airports. GA security doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive to be effective.

Even federally-regulated mixed-use airports – those with commercial airline and GA traffic -- tend to misunderstand GA security. In a previous life I was the assistant general manager of General Aviation Programs — when it comes to GA airport security, I’ve seen it all.

For every Teterboro, there’s a Wayne County Airport (Wooster, OH). Teterboro is one of the busiest airports in the world — GA or otherwise. Wayne County Airport survives on a few local flight schools, Smuckers, and Rubbermaid.

An effective GA security program is one that is designed for your airport, because every facility has different needs. The four steps below can help ...

Step One: Vulnerability and Threat Assessment

Determine the specific needs of the airport. First up is a vulnerability assessment of the airport and its surroundings. Take a look at these two airports. Do you think each airport has the same vulnerabilities and risks? A little context will help you decide.

Vulnerabilities at a particular airport depend on many variables: type of aircraft flown, population size, powerplants or military facilities nearby, and others. Use the vulnerability assessment in TSA’s “Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports” published in 2004 or a third party to conduct an objective assessment relevant to the operation. 

Step Two: Gap Analysis

Take a look at security measures currently in place. Take the time to research industry best practices, attend a seminar, or talk with security specialists. Form a security team and bring it in early to get buy-in on the plan and on training.

Step Three: Develop and Implement a Security Plan

Don’t get carried away. Take a look at the airports above again. Van Nuys is a virtual fortress of fencing, key-carded gates, and cameras. Yoder Airport could probably get by with locking aircraft doors and throttle locks. 

Step 4: Basic Measures

Basic measures include employee and tenant badges, assuming it’s not a TSA-designated Security Identification Display Area (SIDA). It doesn’t need to be fancy; it just needs to designate those who may enter sensitive areas like hangars and work rooms and those who must stay in lobbies or other common areas unless escorted by someone with access.

Visitor sign-in, badges, and escorting. Require each non-employee to sign in upon entering the building and issue the guest a badge.

Training for staff members — it doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive.

Facility key control and aircraft key control — require accountability among staff and tenants. When an individual resigns or otherwise leaves the company, are the doors re-keyed? 

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Lindsey McFarren is president of McFarren Aviation Consulting;