Aircraft Security Airside – Top GA Considerations

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Aircraft guards are recommended for many worldwide locations and can be a worthwhile investment in enhancing safety and security of your operation, personnel and assets. These arrangements need to be considered early in the trip planning process as there are often airport authority restrictions and limitations to consider.

The following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Aircraft guards

Rules differ across the world, and from airport to airport, in terms of allowable aircraft guard options. While some airport authorities permit use of 3rd-party security airside, others mandate that you use only specific and approved security providers. For example, in Peru 72 hours’ notice must be provided and aircraft guards must be arranged via the airport authority. At other locations, including most airports in China, use of aircraft guards in airside areas is prohibited. Lead time must always be considered when setting up airside security on ramp areas. Operators should understand all applicable rules, restrictions and lead time requirements for all planned destinations to ensure security expectations are met.

2. Armed and unarmed guards

There are many locations throughout the world – including Colombia and most of the African continent – where use of armed aircraft guards are permitted. However, deployment of armed guards at these locations may not be possible during periods of local elections and or large local events. Use of armed guards in Europe is usually only possible in the case of head of State and certain diplomatic flights. Unarmed guard options are possible at many, but not all, locations worldwide.

3. Determining the security situation

Prior to operating to any international destination it’s recommended to review the airport layout, airport hours, fencing, CCTV security surveillance and who’s doing airport patrols. Most larger international airports have very tight airside security and some have security patrols done by local military. If you’re operating to a new destination, or any destination above threat level 3, we recommend ordering a current airport security brief. Be mindful that smaller or secondary airports could have obvious security deficiencies, in terms of fencing, lighting, patrols etc., and aircraft guard services may play an even more critical role.

4. Lead time

When setting up aircraft guard services we recommend 72 hours lead time, with a minimum of 48 hours’ advance notice, keeping in mind local holidays and weekends. Aircraft guards can often be arranged with shorter notice but it’s important to ensure you have sufficient time to vet the provider, coordinate airside access arrangements and consider applicable guard duty shifts. It’s best to source aircraft guards either via 3rd-party security providers with a good intelligence network, your 3rd-party support provider or your ground handler. It’s always important that guard services be properly vetted, licensed and insured for the particular airport location.

5. Costs of guard services

Cost of having aircraft guards on duty varies depending upon the international location. Cost may range from 25 – 45 USD/hour and could run about 1,000 USD per 24-hour day. But costs of these services can be much higher at certain locations and depending upon availability. Expect to be charged higher rates for armed security as you’re paying for a different level of service. It’s always best to request an advance cost quote, specifying all services, requirements and hours involved. Be mindful that you cannot just hire anyone to guard your aircraft as airports have badging and licensing requirements and will not approve airside access to just anyone.

6. On-ramp limitations

When considering aircraft guard options, it’s important to be aware of both airport authority and fixed-base operator (FBO) imposed limitations. For example, some FBOs may not allow certain security services on ramp areas they control — even though these providers are permitted by the airport authority. We found this to be the case during the recent World Cup in Brazil where some FBOs blocked specific transportation and security companies from their ramps. Best practice is to use a security provider with good working relationships with both airport authorities and local FBOs/ground handlers. In some cases, depending on the security provider you use, it may be necessary to use a different FBO.

7. Aircraft security on a budget

In cases where aircraft guards are not permitted airside, or operators are looking for less costly security solutions, there are options to consider. For example, security tape on doors and hatches is a recommended low cost security enhancement. You may also consider renting hangar space to improve airside privacy and security. Onboard alarm systems are becoming more and more sophisticated and may include direct feeds to your phone from aircraft-mounted cameras.

8. Benefits of aircraft guards

Having an aircraft security guard is an investment that pays off in many different ways — even when not operating to high-threat locations. A good aircraft guard will monitor any damage or potential damage to the aircraft and keep a log of any relevant events, such as unauthorized people walking up to the aircraft or people outside the fence monitoring activity of your aircraft.

9. Day of operations tips

We recommend that the guard be in position one hour prior to the aircraft’s arrival and stay 30-60 minutes after takeoff. Have full contact details on the guard to ensure you’re dealing with the right person. A photo of your guard in advance is possible in some regions — such as Mexico or the Caribbean — but not in others such as Vietnam or Russia. Ensure the guard service is aware of all of your requirements. In some cases, there may be language barriers but it’s important to be able to communicate. It’s also necessary to let the guard know if anyone will be returning to the aircraft and who is authorized to enter your aircraft.

Conclusion

When arranging aircraft guard services always allow sufficient lead time to ensure the security service is properly vetted, licensed, aware of all of your requirements and available. At some more remote locations there may be cases when you’ll need to fly in a security provider from a larger regional destination. Last, be aware of restrictions for each airfield and that there may be limited services due to airport authority regulations.


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