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FAA Security Suggestions for Flight Schools & FBOs

U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration

Flight Standards Service
Suggestions for enhanced security for flight schools and fixed base operators

The information contained in this notice is provided to aviation safety inspectors to allow them to assist flight schools and fixed base operators in enhancing security in and around general aviation airports and aircraft parking areas.

a. Disseminated Information

(1) Public Use Airports
In October 2001, the FAA's Office of Airports sent security guidance to all public use airport and airfield owners and operators. The security guidance included direction to contact local law enforcement to verify procedures to report suspicious persons or activities at the airfield; report promptly information indicating possible criminal activity to local law enforcement; and distribute security guidance to all organizations on the public use airport.

(2) Flight Schools and Training Centers
Inspectors have received N 8700.11, Flight School and Training Center Requirements Under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, dated December 17, 2001, with the requirement to advise flight schools and training centers of the requirements of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. This legislation required flight schools and training centers to advise the Attorney General of any foreign applicants for flight instruction and to provide the Attorney General specific information on these foreign applicants. The Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service are outlining the process and the details on the information to be provided, and once this is finalized, the process will be provided to flight schools and training centers.

(3) Flight Instructors
Information similar to that to be provided to flight schools and training centers regarding foreign applicants will be mailed to all certificated flight instructors in the country, once the process and information have been finalized.

b. Recent Events

(1) Unauthorized Flight
On January 5, 2002, a 15-year old student pilot took an aircraft without authorization from the flight school where he had been taking flying lessons. The student pilot took off without clearance, traversed military airspace without permission, and crashed into a 42-story building in downtown Tampa, Florida. There was damage to the building, but no one inside the building or on the ground was injured by the crash itself or by falling debris. There was no fire, and the student was the only fatality. The accident is still under investigation and has raised concerns among the public and federal law enforcement organizations about the security of general aviation and how that can be improved.

(2) FAA/Industry Cooperation
Flight Standards is working with general aviation organizations such as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association, the National Air Transportation Association, the National Association of Flight Instructors, and the National Business Aviation Association, among others, to encourage the adoption of these or similar recommendations.

This notice is distributed electronically to all Flight Standards District Offices.

This notice applies to principal inspectors of flight schools and other aviation safety inspectors who have surveillance responsibility for fixed base operators.

a. Inspectors

(1) Provide the following information to all flight schools and fixed base operators within the jurisdiction of each Flight Standards District Office. (Consider using the office Safety Program Manager to contact fixed base operators.)

(2) Encourage flight schools and fixed base operators to implement applicable suggestions contained in this notice.

b. Alternative Dissemination
The information contained in paragraph 6 will be posted on the FAA public web site at the following URL: (Click on the link "Flight School Security" at the top of the page.) Inspectors may refer flight schools and fixed base operators with Internet access to that URL. This information will also be provided to the major general aviation advocacy groups for inclusion on their Internet sites.

6. Suggestions for Enhanced Security for Flight Schools/Fixed Base Operators
a. Business Considerations
In view of the accident which occurred on January 5, 2002, involving a 15-year old student pilot taking an aircraft without authorization, an action which resulted in a fatality to the student pilot, flight schools and fixed base operators should consider implementing any of the following suggestions appropriate to the size and scope of their flight operations. Note that some suggestions supersede or are more extensive than others, and operators should adapt those that best fit their businesses. Another distinction to be made is whether these enhancements should apply to student pilots once they have soloed, and the suggestions are geared toward the pre-solo student pilot, some applying only to underage student pilots. Flight schools and fixed base operators should evaluate their operations from a security standpoint and institute policies and procedures commensurate with their specific business. Before attempting to implement any of these suggestions, consider designating an employee as a security coordinator to be responsible for maintaining, upgrading, and updating any security policies and procedures.

b. Possible Security Enhancements

(1) Use a different ignition key from the door lock key. The instructor would provide the ignition key when he or she arrives at the aircraft.

(2) Limit student pilot access to aircraft keys until the student pilot has reached a specific point in the training curriculum, i.e., successful completion of the pre-solo written test.

(3) Before solo, keep student pilots under the supervision of a flight instructor at all times, regardless of the student's age.

(4) Consider having any student pilot check in with a specific employee-i.e., dispatcher, aircraft scheduler, a flight instructor, or some other "management" official-before being allowed access to parked aircraft; or have the student sign or initial a form and not receive keys until an instructor or other "management official" also signs or initials.

(5) Establish positive identification of any student pilot before every flight lesson.

(6) If the student pilot is not yet a legal adult at the time of enrollment, the enrollment application, if applicable, should be co-signed by a parent or legal guardian.

(7) Even though a medical certificate is not required until the student pilot is ready to solo, consider establishing a school/FBO policy that the student pilot obtains the medical certificate before he or she begins flight lessons. (A medical certificate will be denied if the individual has a disqualifying mental condition.) Introductory flights could be exempt from this policy.

(8) To prevent unauthorized use of aircraft, take steps appropriate to the specific type of aircraft to secure it when it is unattended.

(9) Consider having an instructor or other school or FBO employee open the aircraft door and retain possession of the key during the student pilot's preflight inspection.

(10) Place a prominent sign near areas of public access warning against tampering with or unauthorized use of aircraft; clearly post emergency telephone numbers (police, fire, FBI) so that people may report suspicious activity. (Emphasize that people other than employees should not take action on suspicious activity but should report it to the appropriate law enforcement authority.)

(11) Train employees as well as pilots who regularly use the aircraft to be on the lookout for suspicious activity, e.g., transient aircraft with unusual or unauthorized modifications; persons loitering for extended periods in the vicinity of parked aircraft or in pilot lounges; pilots who appear to be under the control of another person; persons wishing to rent aircraft without presenting proper credentials or identification; persons who present apparently valid credentials but who do not display a corresponding level of aviation knowledge; any pilot who makes threats or statements inconsistent with normal uses or aircraft; or events or circumstances that do not fit the pattern of lawful, normal activity at an airport.

This notice will not be included in an upcoming change to Order 8700.1 and will expire on the date indicated above. If additional guidance is necessary, it will be published in a separate notice (i.e., notices are not amended or changed). Any questions concerning this notice should be directed to the General Aviation and Commercial Division, AFS-800, (202) 267-8212.

Original signed by James J. Ballough
Flight Standards Service