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This is a Test

Posted on: September 29th, 2012 by Pete Agur

This is a Test… It is only a Test…

The unfortunate fact is it often takes a catastrophe to effect change, and that certainly is the case with business aviation security. The few reports of serious security breeches that have occurred in recent years suggest that the problem may be much bigger than we care to admit. But how do we know what the threats are and where they might come from? And what constitutes a “secure” operation? One place to begin evaluating your department’s security is to answer a few questions.

Business aviation was dangerously exposed to “terrorists” before September 11, 2001. I believe we are still at risk from security threats. Read on, take the test and see if you agree.

Aviation professionals have come to view safety as a constant effort, on the ground and in the air. The improving science of safety is causing us to shift from addressing failures-”thou shalt not”-to managing risks-”thou shalt.” The results are taking us to new levels of safety performance and perception. Accident rates continue to decline, and public perception of business aviation safety continues to climb.

Security should be treated just like safety. Security is not a situational effort; it is continuous. And also like safety, it is a qualitative result of the performance of your aviation services team and the resources they use. The need for security reaches much farther back than the tragic events of 9/11. Consider the following business aviation security events that have occurred in recent years:


  • A corporate strategic plan was stolen from the cabin of a helicopter while it sat on the ramp at a major Northeast airport. The information in those documents was worth millions.


  • A deranged man parked his pickup truck against the fence adjacent to the ramp of a large aviation department based at an international airport. He then climbed onto the truck’s hood, hopped the fence, and ran out to a corporate aircraft where the passengers had just deplaned. He demanded that the crew take him to his preferred destination. They declared they were out of fuel, and left him in the aircraft to become acquainted with airport police.


  • A senior executive of a major corporation was under investigation by the FBI for non-business-related dealings. When top management became aware of his impending legal problems, he asked that a company aircraft take him to headquarters to tell his side of the story. When he boarded the aircraft he carried an unusual bag that he refused to let anyone else handle. As the aircraft was leaving the airport traffic area the crew declared they had a cabin fire onboard. No one survived.


  • Shortly after takeoff, a distraught woman on a corporate shuttle aircraft opened the back door and, before anyone could stop her, jumped out and fell to her death.


  • In unrelated incidents inWhite PlainsandAtlanta, corporate jets on private ramps were sabotaged. In both instances the damage was discovered before the aircraft left the ground.


  • The chairman of a Fortune 25 company walked out of a fixed-base operation and up the stairs of his long-range jet. As he sat down, he realized that two uninvited guests had followed him into the aircraft. The two large men had fallen into step behind him as he left the facility because they wanted to get a look at the inside of a corporate jet. Although their intent was innocent, their intrusion and evasion of basic security processes surprised the executive and stunned his flight crew.


For each of these six events there are dozens more that have received no publicity. If the ratios in security are similar to those in safety, there have been hundreds of such events or near misses. In other words, I believe business aviation security has a bunch of dirty laundry that has been tucked away out of sight. On September 11th we were put on notice. We no longer have any excuses or places to hide.

So, how good is your aviation department’s security program and performance? Take this test and see. It is based on common sense and business aviation security best practices. The test is easy to score. Answer each question on a 3 – 0 scale:


3 = Always

2 = Usually (75% of the time or greater)

1 = Sometimes (about 50% of the time)

0 = Rarely or Never


If a question does not apply to you, delete it from the total. You can calculate your aviation department’s security rating by totaling the score from each question and dividing it by the number of questions times 3. For instance, in Section I you may have only 4 questions that apply, and your total score for those questions is 10. Your score for Section I is 10 ÷ (4 x 3) = 83%.


Excellent = 90%+

Generally competent = 80% to 89%

Needs improvement = 79% or less


Your final score will not only give you an idea of how good your aviation department’s security is, but you will also know which specific areas need attention.


I.                      Management & Leadership

3 2 1 0             1. Your company’s top management endorses security through leadership, budgets and appropriate policies.

3 2 1 0             2. Corporate security is an important member of the administrative organization of your company.

3 2 1 0             3.  Corporate security and your aviation department work closely together.

3 2 1 0             4. There is a real sense of co-responsibility for security by everyone, top to bottom, at your company and your aviation department.

3 2 1 0             5. The leaders and members of your aviation department consistently employ a rigorous discipline in their application and adherence to prescribed security measures.


Management & Leadership performance score

A. Total points = _____

B. Total questions = _____ x 3 = _____

C. Your score (A/B) = _____

II.                    People

3 2 1 0             1. Your aviation department’s security program, like safety, has a multi-disciplined team of champions (management, scheduling, maintenance/ground services and flight) who routinely and systematically strive to raise the department’s security standards and performance.

3 2 1 0             2. Your entire aviation department staff has received initial security training.

3 2 1 0             3. You conduct annual security training refresher courses for all aviation department members.

3 2 1 0             4. Your people have practiced responding quickly and aggressively to security breaches or threats (i.e., dial 911 and then confirm threat or innocence).

3 2 1 0             5. In a “high threat” security circumstance, your crews are preauthorized to say “no,” just like they do with safety issues.

3 2 1 0             6. Background checks have been performed on all of your aviation department members, full-time and part-time.

3 2 1 0             7. All visitors and vendors to your aviation department are positively identified before they are given facility access.

3 2 1 0             8. You require an accurate and accessible passenger manifest for all trip legs.

3 2 1 0             9. Only company personnel and authorized guests, identified in advance, are allowed to board aircraft used for your trips (company, fractional or charter).

3 2 1 0             10. Either your passengers or your aviation department members assure positive control of luggage at all times.


People Performance score

A. Total points = _____

B. Total questions = _____ x 3 = _____

C. Your score (A/B) = _____


III. Property (Facilities & Aircraft)

3 2 1 0             1. Your aviation department’s offices and hangar building areas have controlled access (fenced and gated parking, locked external doors, video monitoring, alarms, and motion sensors).

3 2 1 0             2. The outside of your facility, especially the landside/parking lots, is very well lit during all hours of darkness.

3 2 1 0             3. Your facility and its parking areas have no shrubs or hedges that provide easy cover for bad guys.

3 2 1 0             4. Every member of your department assures that external gates, doors and windows (except those that are protected with bars or grates) are closed and locked.

3 2 1 0             5. Unknown passengers, guests and visitors (including vendors) are required to provide positive identification prior to being admitted into your aviation department facilities.

3 2 1 0             6. You maintain a log (guest book) that tracks the arrival and departure of your aviation department visitors.

3 2 1 0             7. Passengers, guests and visitors are kept in secure areas (i.e., the waiting room) or escorted during their entire stay at your aviation department facilities.

3 2 1 0             8. Your important or high-value items and storage areas (food & liquor, parts & tools, etc.) are secured when they are not in use.

3 2 1 0             9. You have a key, magnetic card or biometrics control program that actively ensures appropriate access to the facilities.

3 2 1 0             10. You have panic buttons and/or phones with preset emergency speed-dial numbers in the greeting, administrative, break room, hangar and other accessible areas.

3 2 1 0             11. When your aircraft is unoccupied, it is closed and locked on the ramp or in the hangar, at home and away.

3 2 1 0             12. You reposition the aircraft away from airports with high risks whenever it is practical.

3 2 1 0             13. At high-risk destinations you use at least one guard to watch the aircraft.

3 2 1 0             14. You use the aircraft’s security system (locks, alarms, tape, etc.) whenever it is unattended, at home or away.

3 2 1 0             15. Your aircraft has no logos and no special registration number.

3 2 1 0             16. Your people keep the hangar doors closed and locked except to move aircraft and equipment in and out.

3 2 1 0             17. Your trip-planning process requires a security update about the destination and all technical stops.

3 2 1 0             18. You use aviation facilities that meet or exceed NATA security guidelines.

3 2 1 0             19. Your flight crews check aircraft lavatories, baggage compartments, and all cavities for unauthorized people or objects as part of their preflight inspection prior to departure.

3 2 1 0             20. A aviation department member is present whenever the aircraft is being serviced (fueling, catering, etc.), at home or away.


Property (Facilities & Aircraft) score

A. Total points = _____

B. Total questions = _____ x 3 = _____

C. Your score (A/B) = _____


IV. Processes & Information

3 2 1 0             1. Your corporate security (or an outside agency) has completed an audit of the aviation department procedures and facilities within the past twelve months.

3 2 1 0             2. You maintain a security information program that provides your aviation department with routine and frequent updates about business and personnel risks or threats at home and at remote destinations.

3 2 1 0             3. You have a security plan that describes the procedures and processes that go into effect in response to different levels (normal, moderate and high) of threat or risk, perceived or real.

3 2 1 0             4. You meet with your airport security manager and/or local police leaders at least quarterly.

3 2 1 0             5. Your local public safety department leaders (law enforcement and fire-rescue) have personally visited your facility during the past 12 months.

3 2 1 0             6. The local public safety departments have copies of your facility plans and assured access to the building(s) in case of an emergency.

3 2 1 0             7. You have briefed the entire department on how to effectively respond to media inquiries.

3 2 1 0             8. Your aviation department members keep trip information (itinerary, manifest, trip purpose, etc.) closely controlled.

3 2 1 0             9. Your aviation department members and passengers are fully aware of the potential eavesdropping that can occur when using cell phones and flight phones.

3 2 1 0             10. Your aviation department has developed an Emergency Response Plan and exercises it at least every two years.


Processes & Information score

A. Total points = _____

B. Total questions = _____ x 3 = _____

C. Your score (A/B) = _____


Total Security score

A. Total points = _____

B. Total questions = _____ x 3 = _____

C. Your score (A/B) = _____


Someone once said that if you don’t like the score you can improve, change the rules or get out of the game. Security is not a game you can get out of, and by definition, someone else makes the rules. You now know the score. If you don’t like it, you know what to do.

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