STOP THIEF — Preventing Aircraft Theft

A few months ago, I was walking down the flight line, and I noticed that one of my favorite airplanes on the line was missing. After checking with the FBO, I found to my horror that the plane had been stolen — robbed right off the airport! While aircraft thefts in general have been down of late, planes can be stolen… at any time, for any reason.

If you happen to own one of the “heavy lifters” of the fleet, including most cabin class twins, larger singles such as the Beech A36, the Cessna 210 line, and the Piper Cherokee 6… these aircraft are now — and have always been — prime targets for aircraft theft. The drug dealer used to be the one to strip the insides out of your plane — except for a few key items — and then load it up with their illegal cargo. Fully loaded (in fact, usually well over the legal load), the drug dealer would take off, and tries to sneak past the ADIZ to get his cargo into our country.

If drug dealers take your plane, there is a tiny chance that it may one day be found — stripped and usually severely damaged. Flying overloaded can overstress the airframe, as well as the capabilities of the pilot. The evidence of the hazards that come with this insane trade can be seen at the end of many a drug-runner’s runways, where dozens of wrecks litter the field.

Of course, now there are other concerns…

PROTECTING YOURSELF MEANS PROTECTING OTHERS – If you own an aircraft, there are some things you can do to make your plane less appealing to a thief…

  • First off, KEEP YOUR PLANE IN A HANGER as much as possible. If they can’t see it, it is less likely they will have the time to go door to door looking for it.
  • KEEP YOUR PLANE LOCKED. If your plane is locked, it will cost the thief precious minutes getting in to your plane. They may bypass it for your neighbor, who didn’t lock his up.
  • MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS. Know who your hangar mates are and know the people on the airport. Aviation is a community and a brotherhood. If you don’t treat it that way, you’re cheating yourself and those around you, but you’re also making your airport less secure. United we stand.

IF YOU CAN, UPGRADE YOUR LOCKS. The locks in airplanes are generally very simple, and most can be opened with about 21 keys. That isn’t much margin to keeping your airplane where you parked it. On the other hand, there are several better locks on the market. These new locks have hardened cylinders, which make them difficult to drill or punch out, and better yet, don’t open with one of 21 keys that someone might have in their pocket.

IF YOU ARE IN A HIGH-CRIME AREA, get an alarm system for your hanger. There are two types you can get

  • the SILENT version, which notifies the local authorities, and
  • the LOUD AND NOISY version, which sets off an audible alarm and notifies the local authorities.

If your airport is remote in location, get the silent version. If your airport is near homes, get the loud and noisy version. The last thing a thief wants is an audience, and the loud alarm system will give him just that. They are likely to flee if confronted with such an alarm in a populated region.

THE SIMPLEST WAYS CAN BE THE BEST WAYS. There are chains and clamps that you can buy that can be safely attached to your propeller. Even a bicycle chain will work — make sure it’s a very heavy chain and that the metal part of the chain is covered with a protective rubber tube. These devices will make your prop unbalanced, and will prevent anyone from taking off with your airplane. There are also wheel locks, which will immobilize your airplane. While these devices take a few moments to put on and take off, they will keep your plane SAFE and where you left it.

BOTTOM LINE: While the chances of having your pride and joy stolen are thin, when thieves strike, the last thing you want to be is unprepared. By taking a few common sense actions, you can protect your property from the hands and the plans of evil people… and keep peaceful the perception of that property in the minds of those who don’t fly.