Airport employees at Donegal Springs Airpark in Mount Joy/Marietta, Pa., last week prevented a man from stealing a twin-engine Piper Aerostar. The man, who is not a pilot, was able to get in and start the aircraft. According to press reports, employees heard the aircraft running at a higher rpm than usual and checked on the aircraft and noticed a stranger at the controls.
Employees had contacted the police, who arrived at the airport shortly after the man was getting out of the aircraft.
“This incident highlights the importance of being vigilant at an airport and reporting any suspicious activity,” said Brittney Miculka, AOPA manager of security and borders. “The employees’ quick action not only helped to prevent an aircraft theft, but more importantly, because the man was not a pilot, probably saved a life.”
AOPA has long maintained that pilots, aircraft owners, airport employees, and tenants are in the best position to help ensure their airport is safe and secure. General aviation airports are similar to neighborhoods—everybody knows each other and knows who or what does and does not belong in the area. That’s why AOPA and the Transportation Security Administration modeled the voluntary Airport Watch Program after the successful Neighborhood Watch program.
The Airport Watch motto “Lock up. Look out.” encourages the general aviation community to lock hangars and aircraft and remain vigilant for and report suspicious activity. The TSA sponsors a toll-free hotline for the GA community to call to report suspicious activity (866/GA-SECURE). In the case of an emergency, call 911.
“Whether you are based at a large or small airport, it is important to practice the principles outlined in Airport Watch,” Miculka said.