The New Jersey state attorney general last Friday (March 21) ordered all airport operators in that state to ensure that every aircraft that remains in the state more than 24 hours must have a "two-lock system which secures or disables the aircraft to prevent operation of the aircraft." The order, issued by the New Jersey Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force, becomes effective this Friday.
Airport operators who fail to meet the deadline face fines, suspension, or even revocation of their airport licenses. Although the order directly affects airport operators, it is individual aircraft owners who will bear the brunt of it.
"We've been burning up the telephone wires to New Jersey since this order was issued," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "While any aircraft owner certainly wants to make it difficult for someone to steal his aircraft or the valuable avionics inside, this order raises serious safety and economic concerns.
"It can be dangerous to put non-certified devices on certified aircraft. Some devices can cause damage. Control locks have caused accidents, even when they can be easily removed. The order will also have economic impacts, with many locking devices costing up to $500.
"We are also concerned that the state is attempting to regulate what is really a federal matter. We'll take this to the highest levels necessary."
Boyer criticized the lack of widespread public involvement in the order. He noted that in a quick survey of some 100 New Jersey pilots, none knew about order taking effect on Friday.
Since the order covers all general aviation aircraft, AOPA is working with the National Business Aviation Association to push for changes. Many corporate aircraft have only one lock, and prop locks aren't an option for business jets.
Part of the issue is exactly what "two-lock system" really means. The New Jersey Department of Transportation has sent a letter to all of the state's airports attempting to define that, but it raises even more questions.
For example, AOPA asked if door lock and magneto key (as is common for most single-engine aircraft) meet the requirement. Or what about a locked aircraft inside a locked hangar? The state hasn't yet provided a written response.
"We appreciate the state's security concerns, but we think they've issued this order without thinking through all of the ramifications," said Boyer.