After reading a Facebook post by one of his company’s pilots, Aviation Director Andre Fodor was prompted to call a friendly staff meeting regarding corporate and personal security within the Flight Department. Here’s why…
The social media post that prompted our Flight Department security meeting contained a detailed chronology of upcoming trips, and (without any intention of doing so) could have exposed our company’s strategic growth plan, or worse, compromised our principal’s privacy and security. Thus the focus was a review of safety and security practices.
With particular reference to security, social media postings risk inadvertent sharing of potentially sensitive information in public forums. Short of forbidding it, I suggested the use of “broad strokes”.
To illustrate, a curious ramp worker at an FBO we once visited once enquired about our destination. Dissatisfied when told ‘Europe’, he probed for more information. I responded that we were going to France, but he insisted on pinpointing our final destination. He finally seemed satisfied when told that we filed for Nice in the South of France. In reality, we were headed to Inverness, Scotland.
While not naturally paranoid, I lived abroad for many years and have flown High Net-Worth Individuals throughout the globe. Corporate pilots are keenly aware that too much information can lead to loss of business revenue to competitors - or worse, make their passengers the target of robbery or kidnapping.
Now that I had everyone’s attention, we were primed for a discussion of security within our corporate Flight Department.
A major concern of Flight Department managers is the wellbeing of the principal and the flight professionals who transport company personnel. Before accepting a flight, I always conduct a safety assessment. My first action is using a search engine to learn what’s going on at the intended destination. Local and major news agencies are a good way to obtain a feel for the situation, and the US State Department travel website is a valuable source for travel restrictions or warnings.
Pilot colleagues, one of whom may have recently visited the destination, often provide valuable operational knowledge.
You may wonder why my first call is not to the local handler...
For the same reason that I’m vague about providing destination details to strangers at FBOs, I believe that alerting a handler of an intended trip may provide too much time for malevolent planning, as you’ll see below.
With the current level of global threat requiring caution, trusting intuition and retaining a healthy level of suspicion help raise the threshold of safety and security within a Flight Department.
To further our risk mitigation, in some locations we may schedule two forms of transportation for our principal; one well in advance (the decoy) and another just a few hours prior to our arrival. Depending on locale, a last minute arrangement can dissipate risk.
Recently a wealthy family was robbed while being driven to a hotel in Paris after arriving on a corporate aircraft. Authorities are fairly sure that it was a well-planned crime aided by inside information. At any rate, Flight Departments need to be creative, think outside the box and use opportunities to remove risk exposure.
Additional Security Measures
There are many other fronts that require risk mitigation. With the advent of airborne connectivity comes security concern for sensitive data flowing in and out of the aircraft. A discussion with our data provider helped us secure and tighten our privacy on that front.
All paper documents left in the cabin are shredded, and we are careful regarding the proper disposal of personal items that might contain DNA (yet another privacy and security concern).
Security is enhanced by communal thinking: if we are all attuned to the risks, as a Flight Department we become better at mitigating risks. Real life practices, practical training, emergency drills, and scenario-based discussions are all vital to sensitize everyone to Flight Department security.
From crew to principal, we are all each other’s keeper.