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Homeland Security general aviation security advisoryHomeland Security general aviation security advisory

Department of Homeland Security Advisory 03-019

Security Information for General Aviation Pilots/Airports

This advisory was produced by the Department of Homeland Security based on information and analysis from the Terrorist Threat Integration Center received during the last 24 hours.


Al-Qaida has long considered attacking U.S. Homeland targets using light aircraft. Recent reliable reporting indicates that al-Qaida was in the late stages of planning an aerial suicide attack against the U.S. Consulate in Karachi. Operatives were planning to pack a small fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter with explosives and crash it into the consulate. This plot and a similar plot last year to fly a small explosive-laden aircraft into a U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf demonstrate al-Qaida's continued fixation with using explosive-laden small aircraft in attacks. General aviation aircraft that were loaded with explosives to enhance their destructive potential would make them the equivalent of a medium-sized truck bomb.

  • Al-Qaida may attempt to use charter or general aviation aircraft to conduct future attacks because of their availability, less stringent protective measures, and destructive potential. The group has a fair-sized pilot cadre and the use of small aircraft requires far less skill and training than some larger aircraft.
  • Charter aircraft also may be attractive because terrorists may only need an established line of credit to gain access to an aircraft and because some agencies allow the use of customer pilots. Security procedures typically are not as rigorous as those for commercial airlines and terrorists would not have to control a large number of passengers.
  • Reliable information obtained last year indicated al-Qaida might use experienced non-Arab pilots to rent three or four light aircraft under the guise of flying lessons.

In consideration of the above information, the Department of Homeland Security asks members of the general aviation community to report all unusual and suspicious activities. If you observe persons, aircraft, and operations that do not fit the customary pattern at your airport, you should immediately advise law enforcement authorities.

Your immediate action is requested for these items:

  • Secure unattended aircraft to prevent unauthorized use.
  • Verify the identification of crew and passengers prior to departure.
  • Verify that baggage and cargo are known to the persons on board.
  • Where identification systems are in place, ensure employees wear proper identification and challenge persons not doing so.

Increased vigilance should be directed toward the following:

  • Unknown pilots and/or clients for aircraft or helicopter rentals or charters.
  • Unknown service/delivery personnel.
  • Aircraft with unusual or unauthorized modifications.
  • Persons loitering in the vicinity of aircraft or air operations areas.
  • Persons who appear to be under stress or the control of other persons.
  • Persons whose identification appears altered or inconsistent.
  • Persons loading unusual or unauthorized payload onto aircraft.

NOTE: All charter operators subjected to the 12-5 rule, Standard Security Program and the Private Charter Security Program, are reminded to ensure compliance with these security requirements.

Persons should immediately report such activity to local law enforcement and the TSA General Aviation Hotline at 866/GASECUR (866/427-3287).

May 1, 2003

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