Security Guidelines for General Aviation Aerodromes
IAOPA Input for ICAO Security Manual (Doc 8973) 24 June 2006

Purpose | General Aviation | General Aviation Aerodromes | Threat and Risk Assessment | Security Precautions | Security Breach Response | Pilots, Passengers and Visitors | Transient Pilots | Aircraft | Hangars | Perimeter Control | Signs | Aerodrome Community Watch Program


The purpose of the Security Guidelines for General aviation Aerodromes is to provide owners, operators, sponsors, and government agencies charged with their oversight with a set of security measures designed to protect the aerodrome and its personnel along with the based aircraft and operators from events that may pose a security threat to those operations and a method for determining when and where these enhancements may be appropriate.

The document offers a list of options, ideas, and suggestions to choose from when considering security enhancements for general aviation facilities. The diversity of types and activity levels at the various types of aerodromes make a standard set of measures impossible to develop. However, the list of measures contained in this paper should assist all concerned in providing for the security of these essential facilities.

General Aviation

When the name general aviation is mentioned most members of the public conjure up a mental image of a small, single-engine piston-powered aircraft, operating out of a small rural aerodrome for recreation. This image is correct for only about one-third of worldwide general aviation/aerial work (general aviation/AW) activities. The remaining majority is occupied with personal transportation, flight instruction, business travel, agricultural application and other general aviation pursuits. In fact, this diversity is so great that ICAO defines general aviation operations by exception: those flight activities not involving commercial air transportation or aerial work. Similarly, aerial work may only be generally defined as operations used for specialized services such as agriculture, construction, photography, surveying, observation and patrol, search and rescue, aerial development, etc. (ICAO Annex 6, Operation of Aircraft, Definitions)

In sheer numbers general aviation/aerial work is impressive: Approximately 370,000 aircraft and 1.3 million pilots are involved in these activities worldwide; they fly approximately 40 flight hours per year. On balance, roughly 50,000 aircraft and 500,000 pilots are employed in commercial air transportation, including cargo and charter.

The significance of general aviation/aerial work is increased when it is realized that every airline and military pilot must begin their journey to professional competence in the cockpit of a general aviation aircraft. Further, the essential services provided to the public by general aviation/aerial work for police, emergency medical services and search and rescue make all of our lives safer and more productive. And, for the many remote areas of the world, life and civilization would not be possible without the benefits provided by general aviation/aerial work operations.

General aviation/aerial work activities globally create hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars for the countries these activities serve. Without this activity essential transportation functions would be eliminated and the opportunities associated with them would be lost to the economies they potentially serve. Therefore, general aviation/aerial work needs and desires should be taken seriously as a worldwide economic engine.

General Aviation Aerodromes

The diverse size and configuration of general aviation aerodromes makes the establishment of a single set of security precautions difficult. By definition these facilities do not serve scheduled commercial air transportation yet may accommodate occasional air taxi operations. But, the great majority of general aviation aerodromes are used for aerial work or personal transportation purposes.

General aviation aerodromes may be as small as a 300 meter grass runway and have no based aircraft, hangars, buildings or other infrastructure. At the other end of the spectrum a general aviation aerodrome may have multiple paved runways exceeding 2000 meters in length, hundreds of based aircraft and large complexes of hangars, buildings and business facilities. Because of this diversity a single security formula is inappropriate for all general aviation aerodromes.

Threat and Risk Assessment

The first step in devising a security program for a general aviation aerodrome is to determine the type and size of threats facing the facility. Small, remote aerodromes obviously face different threats and levels of threats than large aerodromes located close to major metropolitan areas. Threat assessment should consider the following factors:

  • Size and configuration of the aerodrome
  • Proximity to major metropolitan areas
  • Number and type of based aircraft
  • Number of aircraft operations

Before any threat assessment is undertaken the actual capability of a general aviation aircraft to cause damage to persons or ground infrastructure should be understood. Most general aviation aircraft are too small to pose a significant threat due to their inability to carry a sufficiently large quantity of explosives. Further, in order for a small aircraft to have any impact careful loading and fusing of the explosives must be accomplished; these actions take time and expertise. Therefore, lengthy clandestine preparations must be made, often difficult at active aerodromes.

Small remote aerodromes pose a significantly lower threat than do larger more capable ones. But, any moderate sized aerodrome, located within 50 km of a major metropolitan area may constitute an elevated threat due to the proximity of potential terrorist targets. Yet, size alone does not constitute an appreciable threat; if there are few based aircraft or annual operations, the threat will likely be small. Size and capability of based or transient aircraft will help determine relative threat, as well. Finally, busy aerodromes with a mixture of large and small aircraft operations may require several levels of analysis.

The risk assessment should consider the following questions:

  • What are the potential aircraft misuses?
  • What possible targets are available?
  • What is the probability of the action being accomplished?
  • What aircraft/operational capabilities are required to accomplish this misuse?

Because the local knowledge of the above factors is probably incomplete, assistance in conducting an aerodrome threat assessment should be provided by State and local intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Ideally, a master aviation threat assessment should be conducted by State authorities on an ongoing basis to provide all concerned with current information.

Once the risk assessment has been completed measures to mitigate those threats can be devised through policy, procedural and physical security precautions.

Security Precautions

The principal method of preventing the misuse of general aviation/aerial work aircraft is to prevent the unauthorized access to the aircraft itself. The primary means of preventing unauthorized use is to lock cabin and/or cockpit access doors. In high threat/risk areas additional precautions may be necessary, usually involving measures to immobilize the aircraft.

The next method of preventing misuse is to deny access to aircraft itself. This is done through perimeter security controls. Security fences, locked hangars and operating area access controls serve as credible deterrents. However, the majority of general aviation aerodromes are too small to warrant (through threat assessment) or justify (economic viability) these measures. Some States with large numbers of general aviation/aerial work aircraft have successfully implemented programs in which aerodrome operators and other interested personnel actively look for unusual or suspicious activity that may constitute a security threat and report these events to law enforcement agencies. (See Aerodrome Community Watch Program)

Security precautions for general aviation aerodromes should be viewed as an increasingly restrictive set of measures to meet threats determined through ongoing threat assessments. Examples of these measures include:

All aerodromes

  • Conduct an informal security evaluation, based on local conditions
  • Install signs warning trespassers of legal consequences
  • Develop an appropriate surveillance schedule
  • Establish liaison with local law enforcement agencies

Medium Size general aviation Aerodromes
(Paved runway longer than 1000 meters and/or more than 50,000 annual aircraft operations)

  • Conduct regular security evaluations
  • Establish and maintain appropriate security measures and procedures
  • Develop and implement a written security program that includes:
    • Personnel qualifications
    • Facility and aircraft security measures and procedures
    • Preventative measures
    • Contingency/response measures
    • Reporting procedures

Large general aviation Aerodromes
(Runways longer than 2000 meters and/or more than 100,000 annual aircraft operations)

  • Designate a security coordinator
  • Implement airside access controls
  • Provide appropriate perimeter physical security for ramp and parking areas (fences, surveillance cameras, etc.)
  • Enhance existing written security program to include:
    • Access controls
    • Procedures for handling bomb or air piracy threats
    • Background checks for certain types of employees
    • Security training and knowledge requirements for employees
    • Compliance with security directives and information circulars
    • Security drills/exercises

Security Breach Response

Response to a suspected or actual security breach should be a part of all aerodrome security programs. The ability for all personnel to react positively and rapidly may make the difference between a major security event and a minor administrative issue. Plans, coordinated with local and State law enforcement agencies should be developed for at least the following events:

  • Access control breach
  • Theft or attempted theft of an aircraft
  • Assault on an aerodrome employee, tenant or transient persons
  • Bomb threat

Pilots, Passengers and Visitors

A key point to remember regarding general aviation pilots and passengers is that they are generally better known to aerodrome personnel and aircraft operators than the typical passenger on a commercial airliner. Recreational general aviation passengers are typically friends, family, or acquaintances of the pilot in command. Sightseeing passengers typically will meet with the pilot or other flight department personnel well in advance of any flights.

Suspicious activities such as use of cash for flights or probing or inappropriate questions are more likely to be quickly noted and authorities could be alerted. For business aviation operations, typically all parties onboard the aircraft are known to the pilots. Aerodrome operators should develop methods by which individuals visiting the aerodrome can be escorted into and out of aircraft movement and parking areas. By utilizing common sense suggestions, the general aviation community can help ensure the security of their aerodrome. Prior to boarding, the pilot in command should ensure that:

  • The identity of all occupants is verified,
  • All occupants are aboard at the invitation of the owner/operator, and
  • All baggage and cargo is known to the occupants.

Security identification badges required for personnel at airline aerodromes may not be appropriate for the majority of general aviation aerodromes due to the lack of security restricted areas, perimeter fencing and other security controls.

Transient Pilots

Aerodrome personnel should strive to establish procedures to identify non-based pilots and aircraft using their facilities. One helpful method may be for aerodrome personnel or service providers to establish sign-in/sign-out procedures for all transient operators and associate them with their parked aircraft. Having assigned spots for transient parking areas can help to easily identify transient aircraft.


The main goal of enhancing general aviation aerodrome security is to prevent the intentional misuse of general aviation aircraft for terrorist purposes. Proper securing of aircraft is the most basic method of enhancing general aviation aerodrome security. Pilots may employ multiple methods of securing their aircraft to make it as difficult as possible for an unauthorized person to gain access to them. Some basic methods of securing a general aviation aircraft include:

  • Ensuring that door locks are consistently used to prevent unauthorized access or tampering with the aircraft.
  • Using keyed ignitions where appropriate.
  • Storing the aircraft in a hangar, if available, and locking hangar doors.
  • Using an auxiliary lock to further protect aircraft from unauthorized use. Commercially available options for auxiliary locks include locks for propellers, throttle, and tie downs.
  • Ensuring that aircraft ignition keys are not stored inside the aircraft.


Hangar storage is one of the most effective methods of securing general aviation aircraft. While space at many aerodromes is limited, hangars should be used when available, ensuring that doors are secured when unattended.

Hangars should be properly marked and numbered for ease of emergency response. These areas are also a good place to install security and informational signs. Locks that have keys that are easily obtained or duplicated should be avoided; locks should be re-keyed with every new tenant. Proper lighting around hangar areas should be installed. As an additional security measure alarm and intrusion detection systems could also aid in the security of hangars.

Perimeter Control

To adequately protect larger general aviation aerodromes from unauthorized access it is important to consider boundary measures such as fencing, walls, or other physical barriers, electronic boundaries (e.g. sensor lines, alarms), and/or natural barriers. Physical barriers can be used to deter and delay the access of unauthorized persons onto sensitive areas of aerodromes. Such structures are usually permanent and are designed to be a visual and psychological deterrent as well as a physical barrier. They also serve to meet safety requirements in many cases.

The choice of an appropriate security boundary design is not only affected by the cost of equipment, installation, and maintenance, but also by effectiveness and functionality, that is, its ability to prevent unauthorized access.

It is important to note that perimeter control methods alone will not necessarily prevent a determined intruder from entering, nor may they be appropriate for every facility. The strength of any security mechanism is dependent on the aerodrome's overall security plan. Expending resources on an unnecessary security enhancement (e.g., complete perimeter fencing, and access controls) instead of a more facility specific, reasonable, and more effective method (e.g., tie down chains with locks) may actually be detrimental to an aerodrome's overall security posture.


The use of signs provides a deterrent by warning of facility boundaries as well notifying of the consequences for violation. Signs along a fence line or open perimeter should be located such that when standing at one sign, the observer is able to see the next sign in both directions. While signs for security purposes should be designed to draw attention, it also should be coordinated with other aerodrome signs for style and consistency when possible. Signs should be constructed of durable materials, contrasting colors, and reflective material where appropriate. Use as concise language as possible.

Wording may include — but is not limited to — warnings against trespassing, unauthorized use of aircraft and tampering with aircraft, and reporting of suspicious activity. Signage should include phone numbers of the nearest responding law enforcement agency.

Many locations with access control or Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) equipment may warrant signage for directional, legal, or law enforcement purposes (e.g. "Alarm will sound if opened", "Authorized personnel only", "Notice: All activities in this area are being monitored and recorded", etc.). For more information refer to ICAO Document 9430-C/1080, International Signs to Provide Guidelines to Persons at Aerodromes.

Aerodrome Community Watch Program

The vigilance of aerodrome users is one of the most prevalent methods of enhancing security at general aviation aerodromes. Typically, the user population is familiar with those individuals who have a valid purpose for being on the aerodrome property. Consequently, new faces are quickly noticed. Teaching an aerodrome's users and tenants what to look for with regard to unauthorized and potentially illegal activities is essential to effectively utilizing this resource.

Aerodrome managers can either utilize an existing aerodrome watch program or establish their own aerodrome specific plan. A watch program should include elements similar to those listed below. These recommendations are not all-inclusive. Additional measures that are specific to each aerodrome should be added as appropriate, including:

  • Coordinate the program with all appropriate stakeholders including aerodrome officials, pilots, businesses and/or other aerodrome users.
  • Work with local law enforcement agencies to develop a program that involves them from its inception.
  • Hold periodic meetings with the aerodrome community.
  • Develop and circulate reporting procedures to all who have a regular presence on the aerodrome.
  • Encourage proactive participation in aircraft and facility security and heightened awareness measures. This should include encouraging aerodrome and line staff to 'query' unknowns on ramps, near aircraft, etc.
  • Post signs promoting the program, warning that the aerodrome is watched. Include appropriate emergency phone numbers on the sign.
  • Install a bulletin board for posting security information and meeting notices.
  • Provide training to all involved for recognizing suspicious activity and appropriate response tactics. This could include the use of a video or other media for training. The following are some recommended training topics:
    • Aircraft with unusual or unauthorized modifications.
    • Persons loitering for extended periods in the vicinity of parked aircraft, in pilot lounges, or other areas deemed inappropriate.
    • 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 of aircraft.
    • Events or circumstances that do not fit the pattern of lawful, normal activity at an aerodrome.
  • Utilize local law enforcement for aerodrome security community education.
  • Encourage tenants to make their staff aware of the aerodrome watch programs.

It is essential that every aerodrome employee, tenant, and user is familiar with reporting unusual or suspicious circumstances on aerodrome property. There are three basic ways that persons can report suspect activities. First is to aerodrome management. Oftentimes questions regarding the legitimacy of an activity can be quickly and easily resolved by bringing it to the attention of an aerodrome employee. The second is through a national or wide-area toll-free central telephone reporting number, connecting to a law enforcement or intelligence agency. Finally, direct contact with a local law enforcement agency may provide the most responsive and effective means of reporting.

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