GA Security: Risk controlling — how much?


How much disposable income should I invest in security stuff to protect my aircraft?

This question is probably one of the most sensitive that I get because flying is not cheap. Even if we have the best of situations, there are still annual inspections and scheduled maintenance, repair of things that break from normal wear and tear, state and local taxes, hangar or tie down fees, GPS database subscriptions, not to mention the fuel and oil. “So with all of these expenses just to be able to go enjoy my $100 hamburger, now I’m supposed to buy security, too?”

I hear you.

In my previous blog, Security Planning 101, I wrote about the five steps to systematically reduce the security risk to your airplane or other aviation assets. I’d like to go a bit further into two of those steps to help give you a general idea of what may be a reasonable amount to invest in security. Let’s look at risk transfer (insurance) and risk control (physical security).

Consider your insurance policy. You may have multiple forms of coverage, including general liability and hangar keeper’s liability. What is the deductible that the insurance company expects you to provide before it cuts you a check? You’ve probably already looked pretty hard at that amount. This price tag represents an actual dollar value for risk acceptance — the fifth and final step in Security 101. If you have multiple policies with different deductibles, you can average those deductibles to come up with a single number.

I realize that most aviators and operators may not have that deductible amount immediately available. That money may be tied up or leveraged in investments so that we get the best use of it while it’s not needed. My point here is that if something bad happens to our aircraft that requires us to notify our insurance agent, we may have to dig deep to meet the deductible. But we’ve already decided, consciously or subconsciously, that the deductible is low enough that we continue to fly. So for the sake of figuring out an acceptable level of financial risk, let’s use your deductible as a baseline.

Would you be willing to invest the amount you’re already on the hook for to ensure that your airplane will be there to fly the next time you want to go fly? Maybe the deductible really is a financial burden and you’ve accepted it simply because it’s the necessary coverage with the lowest premium you could afford. So let’s use 50% of your average deductible as the bottom end and the full deductible as the top end for a security investment budget.

If your deductible is $1,000, then your security investment range is $500 to $1,000. That range is modest, but fairly common. For that amount you can easily purchase and install propeller locks, throttle/mixture locks, and other commercially available security hardware. You can also purchase and self-install a modest motion-triggered security light or two. Make sure those locking devices have big, bright REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT flags that can be seen easily from a distance. You want your adversary to see that taking your aircraft is going to be more difficult than most because the closer they get to your airplane, the more invested they become in achieving their criminal aims. Discourage them from a distance.

If your deductible is $2,000, then your security investment range is $1,000 to $2,000. Beyond what is suggested above, you can self-install more lighting and a simple CCTV system. You could also purchase and install steel locks and hasps on doors.

My point here is that you can make practical use of the information provided to you, but hidden within your insurance policy — your risk transfer step. It’s you who has already decided that the deductible is acceptable, not a security equipment vendor. Use this value to keep from going off the deep end with security equipment. You’re protecting your airplane or fuel truck, not the U.S. gold reserve in Fort Knox. Set a budget. Contact your insurance broker to find out which forms of physical security will get you increased coverage for the same premium, reduced premiums for the same coverage, or reduced deductibles. Make best use of that risk acceptance money and get some return on your investment. Use your insurance policy deductible to help you set a budget.

Fly safe, and be secure!

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





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