Security Planning 101

When most think of airport security, they see in their mind’s eye fences, television cameras and DVRs, lights, and so on. But in the big picture of security these elements in reducing risk to an acceptable level are only the fourth of five steps. There are three steps in front of this step, so if mounting a CCTV camera is the only thing we do, then we are missing the other 80%. As a great radio announcer and story teller used to say, let me give you the rest of the story.

There are five steps to lowering the risk of loss of something important: Risk avoidance, risk transfer, risk spreading, risk control, and risk acceptance. Like painting a runway or installing a database in your GPS navigator, just because you’ve done it once doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t periodically review it and be prepared to do it again.

Risk avoidance is the deliberate decision not to do something. For an airport it could be the decision to provide 100LL fuel only, but not Jet A. By doing this the airport does not encourage expensive aircraft to make use of the airport — they do lose out on business, but reduce the risk of having an expensive airplane being damaged on the ramp. For an airplane owner the decision could be not to fly into soft fields or unimproved strips. The potential risk of damage to one’s aircraft could exceed the utility of flying into that airfield. That’s risk avoidance — intentionally choosing not to do something.

Risk transfer is simply having someone else shoulder some — or all — of the burden of loss of something we want to protect. There are two common ways to do this. You can purchase insurance or purchase a bond. Most are familiar with these products for risk transfer, so I won’t belabor this step. But I will say that the terms of insurance coverage and exclusion tend to cause people to re-evaluate their risk avoidance strategy.

Risk spreading deals with multiple similar assets. If you have a fleet of aircraft or a fleet of fuel trucks and your airport has a history of catastrophic weather phenomena during a particular time of year, you might relocate those assets out to multiple locations. The idea is that if something bad happens at one location that results in the damage or destruction of one asset, the likelihood that most or all of the other assets will be damaged or destroyed is reduced.

Risk control is the element of risk mitigation which most think of as security. Risk control involves reducing risk by controlling access, increasing surveillance and detection, and improving security force or law enforcement response.

Risk control needs to be carefully coordinated and integrated with the previous three elements of risk reduction because it can easily become more expensive than it needs to be. This is also the step that needs to show some sort of return on investment. For example, if installing a fence to protect your airplane will reduce your insurance premiums, then you can take that savings and use it to figure how many years it will take to recover the cost of the fence. Depending upon how easily that asset can be replaced, it may be more cost effective to purchase more insurance or pay a higher premium to remove an exclusion than it is to install the fence. But you won’t know that if you don’t scrutinize your coverage and examine costs, so before writing that check to a security equipment vendor, don your green eye shades and crunch the numbers.

Finally, the fifth and final element is risk acceptance. Stuff happens. Murphy lives. If you’ve exercised care in reducing risk with the previous steps, you have to ask yourself if you are willing to accept the remaining risk. If the answer is no, then as I see it, you have two choices. You can either go back to the different risk elements and make changes to reduce the risk to an acceptable level or don’t do whatever it is. But typically by the time you’ve taken all of these steps and done all you feel you can, you’ll likely be willing to accept the residual risk.

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. Mitch Latting says

    Unfortunately, each airport that is affected by TSA 8G has the ability to decide how it can implement this directive.  Our local airports have gone beyond common sense, if 8G has any common sense to it at all.

    Instead of securing the specific areas that are accessed by commercial airline flights, our folks decided to encompass the entire airport perimeter.  Therefore, access codes were removed from all pedestrian gates,preventing access to our airplanes.  In other words, if you travel into these airports and leave the premise, you cannot get back to your airplane without a restaurant waitress, FBO representative or some other ridiculous authority letting you in.  The serious problem comes into play if you try to return to your airplane after all these folks have gone home for the night! 

    Here’s the other pathetic issue with 8G.  Some 35 years ago, I required an FBI background check to access my work location at a military base.  Today, I need an FBI background check to get to my private aircraft at my airport.  How’s that for progress in freedom? 

    Additionally, these FBI background check access badges are airport specific.  It would have made much more sense to at least make the badges non-airport specific so they could be used at any TSA 8G airport across this country. 

    We are victims of an overzealous government action that protects no one.  It merely serves to make it extremely difficult for honest folks to get to their own personal property.  If a terrorist desires to access a certain point on our local GA [now TSA 8g encumbered] airport, a little 6 foot chain link fence with a FBI access card reader is certainly not going to stop them!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *