Stolen 172: Foot, Meet Mouth
Being a certified, card-carrying reactionary member of that special interest group known as general aviation, I am just as capable as the next guy—no, more capable—of reacting with outrage when our industry is put upon by the government. But I like to think of myself as an equal opportunity crank and yesterday's fiasco with the stolen Cessna 172 and the F-16 chase down is a target too juicy to ignore.
In GA, we love to whimper when the government imposes some new restriction and we're beside ourselves with angst over the TSA's ill-advised LASP proposal. So what do we do? We turn around and give the government—and the general public—perfectly good reasons to think GA is a security nightmare. Press reports indicate that the Canadian flight school responsible for the errant Cessna 172 left the keys in an unlocked airplane, thus when the perp jumped the fence, the rest was easy. Whether that's exactly true or not is less important than the fact the airplane wasn't taken at gunpoint. It was simply inadequately secured against the mildest threat.
This is not the first time this has happened and in the past, the industry has made perfectly reasonable but ultimately silly arguments that a Ryder truck can do more damage than a 172 stuffed with all the C-4 you could get into it. This, of course, continues to ignore the fact that the public could give a fig about reason. We are dealing with perceptions here and these are what drive government action and inaction. Whenever you have F-16s chasing a stolen airplane around the skies of North America, this is a bad thing.
So, to our friends north of the border and to any flight school in the known universe that thinks it's too far in the hinterlands to worry about basic, commonsense security like not leaving keys in airplanes, I would suggest this: Sit down and brew yourself up a nice cup of warm $%^&($% reality. We're already stuck with stupid procedures like magnetic gate cards, identity papers and the threat of passenger screening for GA. If we want more of the same, let's just keep leaving unsecured airplanes on the ramp.
Walt Kelly penned the wisdom of the ages in 1970: We have met the enemy and he is us.