Suggestions for enhanced security for flight school/fixed based operators

September 1, 2002

Suggestions for enhanced security for flight school/fixed based operators

Excerpts from the FAA notice distributed to all flight standards district offices (FSDO) on January 9, 2002. This notice was sent to all FAA inspectors for them using in assisting flight schools and FBOs.

BUSINESS CONSIDERATIONS. In view of the accident which occurred on January 5, 2002 involving a 15-year old student pilot taking an aircraft without authorization, an action which resulted in a fatality to the student pilot, flight schools and fixed base operators should consider implementing any of the following suggestions appropriate to the size and scope of their flight operations. Note that some suggestions supersede or are more extensive than others and operators should adapt those that best fit their businesses. Another distinction to be made is whether these enhancements should apply to student pilots once they have soloed and the suggestions are geared toward the pre-solo student pilot, some applying only to under-age student pilots. Flight schools and fixed base operators should evaluate their operations from a security standpoint and institute policies and procedures commensurate with their specific business. Before attempting to implement any of these suggestions, consider designating an employee as a security coordinator to be responsible for maintaining, upgrading and updating any security policies and procedures.

Possible security enhancements

  1. Use a different ignition key from the door lock key. The instructor would provide the ignition key when he or she arrives at the aircraft.
  2. Limit student pilot access to aircraft keys until the student pilot has reached a specific point in the training curriculum, i.e., successful completion of the pre-solo written test.
  3. Before solo, keep student pilots under the supervision of a flight instructor at all times, regardless of the student's age.
  4. Consider having any student pilot check in with a specific employee—i.e., dispatcher, aircraft scheduler, a flight instructor, or some other "management" official-before being allowed access to parked aircraft; or have the student sign or initial a form and not receive keys until an instructor or other "management official" also signs or initials.
  5. Establish positive identification of any student pilot before every flight lesson.
  6. If the student pilot is not yet a legal adult at the time of enrollment, the enrollment application, if applicable, should be co-signed by a parent or legal guardian.
  7. Even though a medical certificate is not required until the student pilot is ready to solo, consider establishing a school/FBO policy that the student pilot obtains the medical certificate before he or she begins flight lessons. (A medical certificate will be denied if the individual has a disqualifying mental condition.) Introductory flights could be exempt from this policy.
  8. To prevent unauthorized use of aircraft, take steps appropriate to the specific type of aircraft to secure it when it is unattended.
  9. Consider having an instructor or other school FBO employee open the aircraft door and retain possession of the key during the student pilot's preflight inspection.
  10. Place a prominent sign near areas of public access warning against tampering with or unauthorized use of aircraft; clearly post emergency telephone numbers (police, fire, FBI) so that people may report suspicious activity (Emphasize that people other than employees should not take action on suspicious activity but should report it to the appropriate law enforcement authority.)
  11. Train employees as well as pilots who regularly use the aircraft to be on the look out for suspicious activity; e.g., transient aircraft with unusual or unauthorized modifications; persons loitering for extended periods in the vicinity of parked aircraft or in pilot lounges; pilots who appear to be under the control of another person; persons wishing to rent aircraft without presenting proper credentials or identification; persons who present apparently valid credentials but who do not display a corresponding level of aviation knowledge; any pilot who makes threats or statements inconsistent with normal uses or aircraft; or events or circumstances that do not fit the pattern of lawful, normal activity at an airport.

January 9, 2002