Ag Aircraft Security: FAA: Hidden ”Cutoff” Switches

Good news from your Association! Thanks to the dedicated efforts of NAAA members Rod Thomas and Frankie Williams, along with excellent cooperation by the FAA’s Wayne Fry, we have produced more ammunition for the war on terror. Every aerial applicator now has the means to make his aircraft even more secure.

Thomas recently noted, “The likelihood of an agricultural aircraft being stolen was always remote. Now, the hidden security switch makes it all but impossible for someone to take the aircraft. It’s like the grocery store parking lot. Plenty of cars for a would-be thief to choose from. So he’s not going to take the car with  the LoJack system installed.”

To borrow from a famous TV commercial, “Only your mechanic knows.” Once you have a hidden cutoff switch installed on your aircraft, you have a fail-safe security system. That’s because, according to Williams, who is also a licensed A&P mechanic, “You can have the security cutoff switch installed any place on the aircraft that works for you.”  Thomas added, “Then, even your best competitor can’t start your aircraft.”

In addition to addressing national security concerns, the hidden cutoff switch is a good business practice and could provide an economical advantage over the competition. Thomas said that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) now requires firefighting aircraft to be secured at all times. BLM could determine that our hidden battery cutoff switches meet their requirement. That will be a distinct advantage for our members involved in this intrepid service. Those operators with turbine engines can get a high-dollar benefit: no hot-start by an unauthorized individual.

FAA’s determination that these “installations are minor alterations” still carry some requirements. The work must be performed by a FAA-licensed Airframe or Airframe & Powerplant Mechanic and recorded in the aircraft maintenance record. The log­book entry can be as simple as “Security battery cutoff switch installed.”

Williams recommends that you place a copy of the FAA Memorandum (titled Agriculture Aircraft Security and dated Feb 13, 2003) in the logbook. The FAA reviewed and approved “typical installations” that Williams produced. Therefore, you do not need, nor do you want, a diagram included in the documentation. The actual installation will take less than two hours, is reasonably priced by those doing the work, and can be performed at any repair station. You can also arrange for the work to be done on your home field or at an Operation S.A.F.E. Fly-In, for example.

There are many companies that will install your Hidden Security Cutoff Switch. The NAAA members listed here can do the work and agreed to have their names published in this article. High Range Aviation, Gooding, Idaho; Lewis Flying & Maintenance Service, Morse, Louisiana; MJ Aviation, Letcher, South Dakota; and Souther Field Aviation, Americus, Georgia.