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Stay secure, avoid fines

Pilots on ramp

A $6,000 fine for just walking around the ramp?

If you don't typically operate at airports served by the airlines, you need to pay particular attention to airport signage and the FBO's procedures when you fly into one of these airports because of required security areas. If you aren't careful, you could be faced with that pricey fine.

The rules can vary from airport to airport, and the airports-specific security plan is not available to pilots, but certain procedures are fairly common.

Just about everywhere, the door from the lobby to the ramp is controlled, and FBO staff have to "buzz you through" after they've verified your identity.

You're already familiar with that, but what you may not know is that the FBO is also responsible for keeping track of you out on the ramp. If you stray into forbidden territory, the FBO could be fined, and so could you.

So at some airports, FBO staff may escort you to and from your airplane. Or you may get a ride to your airplane, even if it's a short walk.

But even if you don't have an escort or a ride, walk directly to and from your aircraft. At some airports, the only thing separating the GA ramp from a higher security level area may be a painted line. Cross that line and you may find yourself being interviewed by stern people carrying guns.

Also pay attention to the vehicle gate. If you are authorized to go through it to load up your aircraft or access your hangar, you're responsible for making sure that it is closed. If another vehicle slips through, both you and the FBO could be penalized.

"Of course you're not expected to know the procedures that apply to all areas of all airports, but you are expected to follow the FBO's instructions and be a responsible pilot in command during your ramp-side activities," said Woody Cahall, AOPA vice president of aviation services. "The procedures may seem cumbersome and FBO staff instructions frustrating, but abiding by them will assure that you and general aviation continue to enjoy access to air carrier and other security-controlled airports."

August 3, 2006

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