Interview with Dave Hook, licensed pilot for over 37 years, who earned his Private Pilot License while he was a student in high school. He is a 1984 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and was a cadet glider instructor pilot. Serving over 20 years in the Air Force, Dave has flown the Lockheed C-130 Hercules, Cessna T-37B Tweet, Beechcraft T-1A Jayhawk, Beechcraft C-12D Huron, CASA 212 Aviocar, Antonov AN2 “Colt,” and the Basler Turbo Conversion’s highly modified C-47T Turbo Dakota. He served as U.S. Air Attaché in West Africa, an Air Commando A-Team leader in the War on Terror, and has flown all over the world.
After retiring from the Air Force, Dave opened Planehook Aviation Services, LLC. He consults with airports and flight departments on how to improve their security and security training. He is also the publisher for General Aviation Security, a magazine published four times a year that focuses on safety and security for general aviation around the world.
Sylwia Książek: Dave, today we will be talking about security in aviation but firstly tell me what comes to your mind when you think of airport safety?
Dave Hook: Airport safety is a continuous chain of intentional decisions resulting in an environment where aircraft operations can happen safely and efficiently. Regardless of the size of the airport or the aircraft that operate there, airport safety is the result of cooperative actions between airport management and those who use the airport.
Sylwia Książek: You served 20 years in U.S Air Force which is one of the five branches (sections) of the U.S. Armed Forces. It defends the United States through control and exploitation of air and space. Tell me why you have decided to change your interest and focused on security in aviation?
Dave Hook: Shortly before I retired from the U.S. Air Force, I had to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. My wife told me that I could not go fishing every day, and she did not want me staying in the house all day. So I looked at the civilian world to see what was needed, but no one was providing. In other words, I looked for an opportunity. Having been a pilot for many years, I focused on the aviation industry.
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York, the security at major airports has improved much, thanks to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. But there were no security improvements at the smaller general aviation airports. However, the terrorists who flew the airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon learned to fly using the smaller general aviation aircraft. That is when I decided to start a company that would focus on improving security at general aviation airports and flight departments.
Serving the general aviation community for the last 10 years, I have learned that security at a general aviation airport is a delicate balance between the freedom to fly and the need to protect the airport and aircraft. Too much security can anger pilots who do not want to be delayed going to and from their aircraft. Too little security can be an invitation to those who steal aircraft or aircraft equipment for economic gain or terrorist purposes.
Sylwia Książek: Yes, it is true. I think when we are talking about safety and security, we can identify their complementarities - there is no effective protection without ensuring aviation safety and vice versa. Speaking of those two areas, I can also point out also another element indirectly related to the matter, which is development of aircraft efficiency. Flying is one of the safest ways of traveling. In spite of the development of air transportation, the number of unlawful acts against the safety has increased. The aircraft itself has become one of the main objectives of modern terrorism called air terrorism.
Dave Hook: I would go even further and say that the aircraft in the air is the main objective of air terrorism. The modern aircraft is too complex for someone without specific training on that make and model of aircraft to start up and takeoff. The air terrorist is most vulnerable while seated on the aircraft before the engines have started. That is why they must wait until the aircraft is in flight before commencing any attempt to take control of the aircraft with any reasonable expectation that they will be successful. The best chance of successfully thwarting an act of air terrorism is while the aircraft is on the ground.
Sylwia Książek: In your opinion, what is the largest threat to general aviation?
Dave Hook: The greatest terrorist threat to make use of general aviation is the domestic terrorist. These terrorists will likely have a legitimate reason to be on the airport and around aircraft. They will be angry at some part of the government and feel that they have exhausted all legitimate means to redress their grievances. They may be part of a larger terrorist cell or organization, but most likely are operating by themselves as a Lone Wolf. What makes this threat worse is that domestic terrorists may already possess a valid pilot license. These people are the greatest terrorist threat to make use of general aviation.
… and the largest security threat to general aviation?
Dave Hook: Statistically, the greatest threat to general aviation aircraft owners is the theft of aircraft avionics. A thief who has been an aircraft mechanic can remove a communications radio or navigation system in less than 30 seconds. Unfortunately, many radio systems can be removed with minimal damage and easily sold.
Sylwia Książek: What is important to keep the adequate level of security?
Dave Hook: The most important element in maintaining an adequate level of security—at airports or anywhere else—is cooperative observation and reporting. In many ways a human being is still the most sophisticated piece of security equipment ever created. Our five senses are quite sensitive and packed conveniently into a water-tight covering. Our computers, brains, can rapidly learn and adapt our programming to new and unanticipated situations. And we have many ways to communicate what we sense and think with others who can do the same. Therefore, keeping people observant, aware, and willing to communicate is the most important part of maintaining an adequate level of security.
Sylwia Książek: Creation of an adequate system of airport security also requires the use of specialized technology, what kind of technology? How it looks in USA?
Dave Hook: Creation of security involves four elements: deterrence, detection, delay, and response. The technology that is used to create these four elements is constantly changing and being adapted for specific conditions. Fortunately, these principles are valid anywhere in the world.
Sylwia Książek: Can you say anything more about that four elements?
Dave Hook: Deterrence is something we want everyone to know. Using different methods to spread the message, we want everyone—both good guys and bad guys—to know that if they try to penetrate the security at the airport, they will be detected, captured, and prosecuted. Effective deterrence means that the casual criminal will probably go somewhere else to commit their crime. That saves us security resources.
Detection is the science of knowing when someone or something has entered the perimeter. When it comes to detection, we want to push our perimeter out as far as we reasonably can from whatever it is that we want to protect, like aircraft, fuel farms, air traffic control towers, and so on. In some situations we might use a system of closed-circuit television cameras or subterranean pressure or electromagnetic detection cables. But detection can also be performed by the intelligence developed by local law enforcement agencies that can warn of impending attacks. So having a professional and cooperative relationship with local and federal law enforcement agencies is just as important for detection as fences and electronic devices.
Delay is the time gained by terrain, devices, and effects that slow down a threat’s access to what we want to protect. And while one particular means of delay may be especially effective, it is best to use multiple types of delay because it causes the threat to have to change how they penetrate one lock or environment to something different. Common types of delay are terrain that slows down the threat, keyed locks that must be bypassed, numeric keypads and card readers which unlock difficult barriers. All of these forms of delay create the time needed from the moment of detection to the arrival of the response force.
There is no security without an effective response force. Whether it is airport security or local police, the response force provides the teeth in a security plan. The response force must have the legal authority to detain or arrest the threat. The more dangerous the anticipated threat, the larger and better prepared the response force must be.
So security depends upon reliable detection that causes the response force to be dispatched. The delay devices must be sufficient to provide the time for the response force to arrive and deploy.
The technology used does not have to be expensive. But it must be reliable and effective. One technology that is effective at one airport may not be effective at another. That is why any technology used for security must be uniquely suited for that airport. So it is better to understand the effects required to create security than any particular technology currently available.
Sylwia Książek: You are publisher for General Aviation Security, and you cooperate with many people and companies around the world. Does it help you to spread information about safety and security for aviation?
Dave Hook: Absolutely! I believe that the most effective means of keeping general aviation a safe, secure, and enjoyable way to travel is to keep the industry informed about the latest developments in aviation safety and security. General aviation is a world-wide industry. No one country has all of the answers or all of the best practices; that is why all of us here at General Aviation Security contribute from all over the world. None of us is as smart as all of us! Therefore, the more we think and act together as a world-wide community, the safer our flight operations will be and the more difficult it will be for criminals and terrorists to advantage of us.
Sylwia Książek: Thank you for meeting. It was pleasure to talk with you.
Dave Hook: The pleasure was mine.