No one ever thinks it’s going to happen to them. Seattle-Tacoma
International Airport has employee screening procedures that goes above and
beyond the minimum legal baseline requirements. And yet, the recent theft and
subsequent fatal crash of a Horizon Air Q400 by a suicidal employee is an
urgent reminder that bizarre and unthinkable events can happen to anyone in the
Had this occurred with an ag aircraft, the industry would be
faced with a public relations disaster, likely an indefinite shut down, similar
to post 9-11 ground stops, at a time when our businesses and our customers need
There are several steps pilots and operators can take to
ensure all aircraft and facilities are secure. NAAA strongly urges operators to
install a hidden ignition switch. This switch can remain unknown to all but the
most essential personnel. After 9/11, NAAA was able to work with the FAA to
allow hidden ignition switches installed in ag planes without having to undergo
the cumbersome FAA Form 337 process.
More security tips, which can be found in the NAAA
Professional Operating Guidelines, are listed below:
- Consider the use of propeller locks or locked
aircraft tie downs.
- Park or disable heavy equipment in front and
behind the aircraft to prevent it from being moved.
- When aircraft are not being used for a long
period of time, remove the batteries or other components that would prevent the
engine from operating.
- Consider video and other effective security
systems with ample lighting to maintain adequate visibility for monitoring
aircraft, storage facilities or aircraft hangars.
- Be aware of individuals who have no reason to be
at or near your location, or who seem to be inexplicably monitoring your
- Establish relationships and ongoing contacts
with local law enforcement, neighbors, other airport users and other area
aerial application operators, thus providing an informal overlapping security
- Report suspicious activity to the General
Aviation Security Hotline at (866) 427-3287, also known as [866 GA Secure].
Earlier this year, the Transportation Security Administration
(TSA) officially withdrew a proposed rule that would have imposed new, onerous
and largely unworkable security regulations on general aviation aircraft weighing
over 12,500 pounds. Known as the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP), the
proposal was introduced in October 2008. Certain airports serving these
operators would have been required to adopt a security program, potentially
causing inflexibility for ag operators at these airports as well.
It is entirely possible a general aviation
incident could revive interest in this unwieldly rule. As a result of the
Seattle theft, House Homeland Security transportation subpanel Chairman John
Katko (R-N.Y.) is pushing for a bill that would increase employee screening for
gaining access to secure areas in commercial airports, despite many in the
industry saying the Katko bill would not have changed the outcome of what
happened this weekend