Planning, knowledge of potential threats, and heightened awareness are all key to ensuring flight-crew safety at home and abroad, according to three experts leading a session on business aviation security best practices on the final day of NBAA’s virtual Flight Operations conference Thursday. Eric Moilanen of Premier Corporate Security, Kris Cannon of Aviation Secure USA, and Matt Burdette of UHC Global Security noted that pre-departure planning should include security briefings that address the current security condition of the country or city crews are traveling to, as well as at the airport and hotel they will be staying.
“Security is a state of mind and you’ve got to be thinking in a different [way] before you even go to these places,” Burdette said.
In addition, crews should be mindful of the transportation they will take to get from the airport and hotel, especially if using a rideshare service. “Ridesharing, no matter where you’re at, whether it’s domestic or international, is hitchhiking with your phone,” Cannon said. Beyond matching the identity of the driver, the vehicle type, and license plate with the information provided by the ridesharing service, crews should consider other steps to keep safe. That includes asking the driver to roll down the rear window before entering the vehicle and opening the door from the inside—to ensure child locks aren’t engaged, preventing a quick exit—as well as sitting directly behind the driver if a crewmember is traveling alone.
At the hotel, the experts advised that crews should check in together, keeping their luggage with them at all times to avoid theft, and hold onto their IDs when asked for by hotel staff to prevent their information from being stolen by an electronic device. Further, the experts recommended that male crewmembers escort their female counterparts to their hotel rooms, check the rooms for unwanted visitors, and ensure that the door locks when closed.
Cannon described a situation during the 2018 NBAA-BACE in which a female flight attendant was murdered. Upon checking into a hotel with her crew of two male pilots, she learned that her room wasn’t ready, and she’d have to wait 30 minutes. The pilots went ahead to their rooms while she waited. Once the flight attendant was able to check into her room “that was the last anybody heard from her,” Cannon said. “Operating as a team is real.”
Also, the experts cautioned against any individual outside excursions, suggesting it’s better to go to a restaurant or other place of entertainment as a group. But to really improve crew safety, it’s best to remain at the hotel and rest. “A good friend of mine once said, ‘You’re on location, not on vacation,’” Cannon added. “You might want to rethink your excursion, especially in higher risk areas, and be careful of what you participate in.”
Lastly, it’s important to note that crew safety is not just an international issue, but one that’s increasingly become a domestic concern. “It would be remiss not to mention that some of the rapidly evolving crisis situations and civil unrest have been happening right here in the United States over the last year,” Moilanen said. “There are a lot of cities that have seen civil unrest and riots and property damage and injuries that are regular destinations here in the U.S. for a lot of our corporate operations.”