Calling all AMTs
By Emily Refermat
On Sept. 11, 2001, the perception of airplanes and airports changed for many people. To some, planes became potential weapons and airports - launch pads. As a result, the tightening of security and restrictions of freedom are showing up everywhere.
An increase in no-fly zones, added security measures, background checks, TSA revoked certificates, etc., are all signs that GA airport security is in the crosshairs. There is a ray of hope, however. If maintenance professionals stand up, instead of digging in their heels, and show society and the government that aircraft mechanics are dedicated to homeland security, perhaps the government will halt in its efforts to "protect," leaving the freedom GA airports yet enjoy.
The security of a neighborhood watch comes from neighbors knowing neighbor's habits: who is gone on vacation, whose car belongs where, etc. Airports are a kind of neighborhood and it's in this way that we can protect them. That is what's involved in the AOPA's Airport Watch program with the help of the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week hotline set up by the TSA and operated by the National Response Center (866-GA-SECURE). Although geared toward pilots, AOPA has the right idea and its twist on the neighborhood watch program along with advisory information from the FAA and TSA gives you an opportunity to act, when most people can only watch and wait.
As a mechanic, you are in various parts of the airport including the hangar, out on the ramp, or possibly on the taxiways while performing maintenance runs. You are in a perfect position to "look around."
Personnel. Get to know the people around you. Get to know their routines/habits, so you can tell when something is wrong. If a pilot or co-worker is acting suddenly unusual and/or under the control of someone else, then call the hotline. If there are people loitering, go up and talk to them. That may scare them away, but at the very least they will know you saw them. Report them to a supervisor.
ID. The best way to approach someone you don't know is to introduce yourself. Chances are good they will introduce themselves and tell you a little about what they're doing there. Make sure you carry a photo ID just in case you are asked to identify yourself. If your airport has a strict ID policy and you get asked to show yours, don't give the person a hard time. You may have worked at this hangar for 10 years, but the person asking is probably new. If you spot an ID that looks tampered with, it should raise a red flag.
Vehicles. Know which vehicles are authorized to go where. There should be restrictions in certain parts of the airport and if there are unauthorized vehicles there, let someone know.
Packages/Luggage. If on your daily routine you see someone loading suspicious packages or out-of-the-ordinary materials, an unattended package lying around, or a package being handed off by people you don't recognize, make a call.
Credentials. If someone presents you with credentials when they don't seem to have the corresponding level of aviation knowledge, be suspicious. Beware of someone who asks too many questions (when they should know the answers).
Communication. Share information with the front desk. Let them know if you have a new mechanic on board or you're expecting a visitor. Make sure past visitors know they need to stop at the front desk to check in instead of just coming in the back.
Force. If you see someone using force to enter a plane or an area accessible by key - be suspicious. Who is the owner of the plane or what is in the locked area? Could they have checked a key out from the front desk?
Instincts. Trust your instincts. Sometimes people know a situation doesn't "feel" right. Take a close look around to locate what seems wrong. Call over a co-worker if you can't put your finger on it.
If aircraft mechanics, pilots, ground support crews, etc., all pitch in to keep an eye on airport security; it will send a message to society and the government. If they know they have you out there and you are watching, monitoring, and securing the airports around the country, they won't need to. The more than 120,000 licensed mechanics alone should be able to "secure the area" in our GA airports. One bonus is that there is no extra cost to this sort of security, unlike fences, metal detectors, security systems, etc., that get cut from your pay or the company's budget. Just go about your business with both your eyes and ears open.
AOPA's Neighborhood watch program brochure and video are available at
or request a copy by mail or phone:
421 Aviation Way
Frederick, MD 21701
U.S. Department of Transportation
Transportation Security Administration
Office of Civil Rights
Mail Stop: TSA-6
400 7th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20590