GA Security Blog debuts

This is the first post of our new GA Security Blog, written by Dave Hook, an expert on general aviation security:

With the Barefoot Bandit now doing hard time behind bars, you might think that the risk of aircraft thefts is diminished. But you’d be wrong. Late last month local law enforcement officials in Utah announced the arrest of two students who planned to use backpacks filled with explosives and detonate them during a school assembly. Their escape plan: Fly away in a stolen airplane from a nearby airfield. Sound crazy?

The theft of general aviation aircraft is not a new threat. In June 2005 a 14-year-old boy stole a Cessna from an airport near Fort Payne, Alabama. In April 2009 a naturalized citizen of Canada, originally from Turkey, stole a flight school airplane from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, and flew it into U.S. airspace in the hopes of committing suicide by F-16; however, he only managed to crash-land in Missouri.

Sometimes the airplane thief is an insider, as was the case in February 2006 with the theft of a Mooney out of Big Bear Lake, California; the 14-year-old boys decided to run away from home by stealing their father’s airplane.

The theft of aircraft is not limited to piston-powered airplanes alone. In October 2005 a Citation 7 was stolen from St. Augustine, Florida, and flown to the Gwinnett County Airport near Atlanta, Georgia.

The point here is that we shouldn’t be complacent and let our collective guard down. Yes, Osama bin Laden is dead. Yes, Colton Harris-Moore is in jail for the next few years. But as the examples above indicate, the threat of aircraft theft exists beyond terrorists and foolish criminal thrill seekers. Take positive steps to protect and secure general aviation whether you are an aircraft owner, renter, student, or enthusiast.

Fly safe, and be secure!

Dave Hook, an expert on general aviation security, is president of Planehook Aviation Services, LLC in San Antonio, Texas.


People who read this article also read articles on airparks, airshow, airshows, avgas, aviation fuel, aviation news, aircraft owner, avionics, buy a plane, FAA, fly-in, flying, general aviation, learn to fly, pilots, Light-Sport Aircraft, LSA, and Sport Pilot.


  1. Rol Murrow says

    While aircraft and avionics theft is not terribly common it is nevertheless a real concern, and certainly a real pain for any victim.

    One big concern is that someone with evil intent might steal a plane to inflict damage on others, as happened with the pilot who flew his plane into an IRS office.  If the person were a genuine terrorist the outcome could be far worse ande we should not minimize the possibility.

    Another is concern involves the potentially disastrous results when an untrained thief crashes.

    Either situation can lead not only to a terrible crash but also to massive public and community relations nightmares, and potentially to increased regulation of general aviation.

    In 2000 the Wolf Aviation Fund provided a grant to security consultant Robert Gardner, who used it to release an online book called “Rural and Small Town Airport Physical Security Manual and Checklist.”    By coincidence it was released the month following the 911 attacks.  It is available through a link at the bottom of the Fund’s website home page at

    We in GA are required to have two forms of access security for our planes, and many pilots rely on the door lock and the ignition lock.  That is quite inadequate as I am sure most of us would agree.  I also use a padlock equipped throttle lock, which also has a padded chain threaded through the yoke.  There are many other good security locks available.

    Consider reading the Gardner book and think about whether your and your friends’ aircraft and your local airfield are really secure.  You may be surprised to find how poor general aviation security is.


         Rol Murrow, Executive Director, Wolf Aviation Fund

  2. Ben says

    I’m very interested in how many airpalnes annually are stolen.  Living in a state that borders Mexico, I’ve been told since primary that we lived in an area of high risk, yet I have only heard of one suspected theft at an airport I have been based at and that turned out to be a lawful repo. Anyone know the numbers?   I can’t find anything in the FAA databases. Thanks

  3. Johnbalas34 says

    A stolen airplane described as a Cessna 172 crashed in West Fresno, Sunday afternoon 5 Feb, 2012 in which pilot was killed.
    Even the tail number had been changed.

  4. Woody says

    Dave Hook is an excellant and most knowledgeable security expert. I have employed his services and look forward to his articles and alerts.
    Woody Lesikar
    Airport Manager
    West Houston Airport

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