Protect Your Perimeter
- Advanced Aircrew Academy
Several recent security incidents highlight the need for business aviation and FBOs to properly prepare and follow facility security procedures while aircraft are on the ground. In May 2021, a pilot found a 19-year-old man passed out inside a Citation jet with a rifle. The pilot removed the Ruger AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle with a multi-round clip. When awoken by police, the man refused to leave the plane and was seen manipulating the plane's controls. He surrendered after about 90 minutes when police released chemical irritants into the plane. Due to the volume of Mace/pepper spray used, the aircraft interior needed to be replaced (and perhaps the pilot's trousers when he saw the man and rifle when he opened the aircraft door).
In the last month alone, there were two different instances of individuals ramming airfield gates, damaging equipment, and posing a threat to safe airfield operations. In Dallas, a suspected drunk driver crashed his pickup through a gate, ultimately damaging two business aviation aircraft and a fuel truck. Hopkins Airport in Cleveland has reported two gate breaches in the last year, the most recent where a driver barreled through a fence into a restricted area. The Transportation Security Administration says one study has shown airport security breaches are a problem nationwide as they occur at a rate of once every ten days.
So, what can we do to prevent these incidents from occurring? A good practice is to focus on what is sometimes called "The 5 Ds of Outdoor Perimeter Security."
Keeping fences or barriers as far as possible from all valuable assets is a good start. As the risk of detection increases in open areas, creating these spaces and maintaining sufficient lighting are great ways to deter others from encroaching upon restricted areas. While it may sometimes cost a bit more, we may also consider installing crash-proof gates, which do not present easy access to anyone with ill intent. Making it physically harder to enter your area is an excellent way of deterring unauthorized access.
Monitoring all areas of your airfield and operations is a basic method for detecting and reporting any possible violations before they occur. Motion-sensing cameras and private security personnel can also be helpful in identifying threats before they become a costly, or even deadly, event. Continually evaluating your method of detecting threats is a good practice as technology and resources continue to advance.
The objective of physical barriers is primarily to keep unauthorized personnel out, while allowing only authorized persons to enter. This responsibility exists for all personnel who are involved in aviation operations. Verifying individuals have a valid, authorized purpose for entry is something we all must do. Never open gates for someone if you aren't sure of their purpose or can't validate their need for access. If necessary, call operations to check.
A perimeter's objective is basically to slow down an active intrusion until a security team can respond if it can't entirely prevent the action. Many of the previous Ds can assist in delaying an intruder and allowing for additional prevention assets to arrive. Checking identities of personnel, creating distance between fences and hangars, and having effective detection measures are all important ways to delay damages from happening.
While this measure is generally provided by law enforcement or other trained security personnel, the inclusion of these individuals in your own airfield security program is an important aspect to remember. Gaining outside perspective on your security measures is a fantastic way to identify weaknesses and continually adapt to keep your assets and personnel safe from harm.
Be smart, be safe, and remember to always follow your own unique airfield and company security practices!