Your Security: It is the Management Company’s Job is to be Paranoid
More security is often important in the decision to buy a corporate airplane. But a corporate aircraft does not alone guarantee either higher security or safety despite the obvious convenience compared with the airlines. Far from it in fact.
A management company has a duty to protect both its customers and employees. A good security system starts with ensuring a continuous scan for threats before they materialize and implementation of effective countermeasures to make sure they don’t happen later. It is a big job. In some cases it isn’t done at all.
Owners should not just assume that customer information, passenger identities and destinations are being protected or that their management company has comprehensive security protocols that envelop all activities related to the airplane and its dispatch in place. This is sometimes not the case. There are specific and predictable weak spots that aircraft owners should address with their management companies as serious security lapses can occur in surprising ways. A comprehensive approach is necessary.
Crew & Employee Confidentiality Agreements in Place
Paradoxically, management companies are themselves frequently responsible for egregious breaches of customer confidentiality. A combination of hungry management company sales executives trolling for prospect information from loose-lipped pilots and flight attendants is a very common source of damaging security leaks. Competing management companies build intimately detailed owner profiles including travel patterns, companion passenger information, habits, preferences, interests, etc.
Crews sometimes freely share information because no one has told them not to and it is a way of professional advancement. Friendly relationships with other management companies may be a key to a bigger salary, a larger aircraft to fly, or simply working with friends. The management companies collecting the data have a more defined objective. All information with direct commercial value will be used to either pitch a new customer or to undermine the credibility of the present management company. If a sales pitch fails intimate information will sometimes “find its way” into the airport gossip mill simply to impair the relationship between the management company and its customer who expected to be protected.
Some management companies go so far as to offer “bounty payments” to crew who help move an aircraft from one Management Company to another. The “bounty” is typically offered by a familiar person, often a senior pilot working for a competing management company. Apart from the legal risks of undermining existing contractual relationships, this behavior typically includes serious customer security and confidentiality issues that should be contained.
Owners should satisfy themselves that management procedures are adequate to prevent idle discussion by it’s employees, crew included. Reviewing employee confidentiality agreements and evaluating employee security training procedures are important due diligence items that should form part of the management company assessment.
Crew & Employee Facilities and Aircraft Security Training
An effective security plan starts with a company culture that makes security everybody’s business. In-house training begins with each employees accepting responsibility for challenging and reporting anything that is unusual – a new person in the vicinity, a package in the office, hangar or aircraft that hasn’t been identified, something unexpected in or around an aircraft, etc.
Training programs should include everyone – crew, handlers, line personnel, flight dispatchers, engineers, etc. The security plan should incorporate full safety management processes which report, review and address deficiencies and promptly generate corrective actions. “Security” is a word that masks a web of threat variables that require systematic attention within a good organization. Owners should always review the Management Company’s program.
Internet Access to In Flight Data
Today, all aircraft movements will be in the public domain through various internet tracking services, unless the management company or owners takes the necessary steps,. These websites detail departure airports and times, estimated arrival times, any in flight deviations from filed routes, as well as aircraft speed, altitude, type of aircraft and more. On the up side such information is helpful for FBOs (Fixed Base Operations), limousine drivers and others who must prepare for aircraft arrivals. Owner office staffs and colleagues, friends and family may also value access to this data.
On the down side, such information may be monitored by business competitors or analysts searching for indications of possible takeovers, mergers or major business discussions. It can also be personally invasive particularly with celebrities or other socially or politically prominent individuals.
It is possible to block this data in most jurisdictions which Owners frequently prefer. Where this is done coordination of off base services can be easily managed directly through the Manager’s flight dispatch and flight following department.
Are Hangar Security Systems & Procedures State-of-the Art?
Hangar security is another due diligence item. There are readily available technologies sufficient to protect any hangar from security breaches. Bio-metric card pass access systems combined with employee screening and training practices can ensure access and personnel security. Cameras with high resolution and infra red capability can monitor hangar activities. Inventory/storage capability of video data can facilitate detailed data reviews as necessary. Proximity alarms, storage protocols, challenge protocols, etc. can be combined to lock down the hangar environment. Moreover, imagery can be readily accessible in real time and monitored by Management Company staff both at fixed monitor sites and remotely.
Hangars should also contain adequate hazardous material facilities and fire retardant (deluge) spray systems to protect the aircraft and the people working on them.
Does the Aircraft Need to be Equipped with an Autonomous Security System?
Many Owners also incorporate autonomous security systems to protect their aircraft while away from its home base. Such systems include sensors on compartments, proximity alarms, video surveillance, etc. In some marginal jurisdictions seals of access panels are sometimes used as well as guard services.