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East Coast avionics thefts underscore need for Airport WatchEast Coast avionics thefts underscore need for Airport Watch

East Coast avionics thefts underscore need for Airport Watch

AOPA's Airport Watch

Avionics thieves are apparently working their way down the I-95 corridor in the eastern United States. Thefts have been reported from airports in New England and most recently from Freeway Airport near Washington, D.C.

"We've seen this before where a band of thieves will work a transportation corridor, ripping off aircraft in one community and then quickly moving down the road," said Woody Cahall, AOPA vice president of aviation services.

"While aircraft and avionics thefts are rare, these latest incidents are a reminder that AOPA's Airport Watch is about more than guarding against terrorism," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The same things that prevent terrorists from using GA aircraft also stop thefts. And theft or vandalism to your aircraft is much more likely than terrorism."

The Aviation Crime Prevention Institute reports that six GA aircraft were stolen last year in the United States, a number that has declined since the implementation of voluntary enhanced GA airport security measures since 9/11. Some 68 aircraft were burglarized last year.

You can do yourself and your fellow aircraft owners a favor simply by going to the airport and keeping your eyes open. Thieves avoid activity and the possibility that someone might see them.

Report anything suspicious to your local police. Calling 9-1-1 on your cell phone will usually get you quickly to local law enforcement, even if you're not at your home airport.

Make it harder for thieves to do their dirty work. Cover your panel so they can't see your radios. Always lock your aircraft, even when you're away for just a moment. That's all it takes for a professional thief to snatch a radio.

Keep your hangar locked as well.

Consider a prop or wheel lock. While that won't necessarily stop avionics theft, think of it as a sign of security. Thieves work quickly; if they see outside security they may decide to hit another aircraft rather than risk running into a security system inside the aircraft.

"But a well-lit ramp or hangar area, with a lot of activity and people who pay attention, is still the best security," said Boyer. "Following Airport Watch guidelines may very well keep the bad guys from getting your stuff."

February 24, 2006

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