Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free membership trial today! Click here

General Aviation Security Overview

General Aviation Security Overview

Flight school procedures

Guidelines and business practices established in the United States for flight schools.

  • Use a different ignition key from the door lock key.
  • Limit student pilot access to aircraft keys until the pre-solo written test.
  • Before solo, keep student pilots under the supervision of a flight instructor at all times.
  • Have the student not receive keys until an instructor signs or initials.
  • Establish positive identification of any student pilot before every flight lesson.
  • Student pilot should obtain the medical certificate before they begin flight lessons. Medical will be denied if the student has a disqualifying mental condition.
  • Secure aircraft when it is unattended.
  • Instructor retains possession of the key during the student pilot's preflight inspection. Place sings warning against tampering with or unauthorized use of aircraft
  • Train employees to be on the lookout for suspicious activity

Background checks for non-citizens

On Sept. 21, 2004, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) issued an interim final rule on flight training for aliens and other designated individuals. When the interim rule was first issued, it required every person to prove his or her citizenship status (including U.S. citizens) prior to undertaking flight training in an aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or less. Additionally, all foreign flight students were required to complete a background check process with the TSA.

  • Proof of citizenship and biometric-based background check and TSA security vetting prior to start of training.
  • Initial and recurrent security training by fixed based operators and flight instructors

Border crossing procedures—ADIZ flight plan requirements

No person may operate an aircraft into, within, or from a departure point within an Air Defense Identification Zone, unless the person files, activates, and closes a flight plan with the appropriate aeronautical facility, or is otherwise authorized by air traffic control.

Each aircraft must file the following information

  • The aircraft identification number and, if necessary, its radio call sign.
  • The type of the aircraft.
  • The full name and address of the pilot in command.
  • The point and proposed time of departure.
  • The proposed route of flight and cruising altitude.
  • The point of first intended landing and the estimated time until over that point.
  • Alternate point of landing.
  • The amount of fuel on board.
  • The number of persons in the aircraft.
  • Any other information the pilot in command believes is necessary for air traffic control purposes.

Pilots failing to comply will be intercepted for identification.

Security flight restrictions in place

The FAA in conjunction with Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense have established flight restrictions and procedures to prevent over-flight of sensitive sites including:

  • Special-use airspace
  • Sensitive Department of Defense installations
  • Sensitive critical infrastructure
  • Washington, D.C., Special Flight Rules Area (formerly ADIZ)
  • Presidential temporary flight restrictions
  • Sporting event temporary flight restrictions

General aviation security initiatives since 9/11

Pilot Security

  • Advanced screening of pilot databases—names checked against watch-list.
  • Certificate revocation authority—revoke license of someone deemed a threat.
  • Flight training background checks—Non U.S. citizens vetted by TSA prior to training.
  • Recurrent security training—Flight instructors undergo recurrent security training.
  • Pilot identification and photo pilot certificate—Difficult-to-counterfeit “plastic” pilot certificates.

Airport and Aircraft Security

  • AOPA’s Airport Watch—Program based on the successful neighborhood watch.
  • Continuous improvements—92 percent of GA Airports have fencing/gates verses 85 percent in 2007.
  • GA Secure Hotline—Airport Watch supported by a toll free government hotline.
  • General aviation airport security guidelines—Guidance and federally endorsed recommendations to enhance security at general aviation airports.
  • Best practices for business aviation security—Standard industry guidelines.
  • Twelve-Five Standard Security Program—Security program for air charter.
  • Charter Standard Security Program—Security program for airliner type aircraft.
  • Secure Fixed Base Operator Program—Locations outside the United States to check passengers and crew against watch-list.
  • Aircraft registry changes—Aircraft owners to re-register aircraft every 3 years.
  • DCA Access Standard Security Program—GA aircraft rules to operate into DCA.
  • Maryland Three Rule—Program sets regulations for three Maryland airports near Washington, D.C.

Airspace Security

  • Automatic Detection and Processing Terminal Version 2—Joint program between the FAA and TSA that identifies legitimate flights and those that might pose a security threat.
  • FAA and Department Of Defense coordination—FAA and the DOD have implemented new communications procedures that allow real-time collaboration and threat assessments.
  • National Capital Region
    • Special Flight Rules Area—60 mile circle of protected airspace around capital.
    • Inner Flight Restricted Zone—30 mile circle where most GA operations are prohibited.
    • NCR Visual Warning System—laser system to warn pilots who have entered protected airspace.
    • Training requirement –special training required on airspace security procedures.
  • Border security
  • Radiation/nuclear detection screening—100 percent of all inbound general aviation aircraft arriving the mainland United States are checked for nuclear and radiological materials.
  • Advanced notice to Customs and Border Patrol—100 percent face-to-face inspection.
  • Electronic Advance Passenger Information System—International passengers on GA aircraft checked against the terror watch-list by Customs and Border Protection.
  • Revised international notam—Requires foreign aircraft arriving U.S. to have passengers vetted and comply with additional TSA security procedures.