What does the pilot use? a password? my wife identifies and authenticates herself to her car every morning using her car keys. I don't see the pilot in movies use a similar key?! I don't expect the designers to leave an airplane open for any attacker to go to the cabinet and fly away.

  • $\begingroup$ Most small planes do have keys, just like car keys. For commercial jets, how much time do they spend parked where someone could steal them? Seems like most are in constant service or in maintenance. And if you steal one while it's in service... Well, that's hijacking, isn't it? $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jan 25 '15 at 19:21

Most smaller propeller planes have nothing. When you're in you can fly away. This seems to be the same for those private jets and older Boeings. I don't fly planes, but I've seen that Airplane Repo program on Discovery, and they just get in and fly away. How this works with the newest planes - no idea.

  • $\begingroup$ So we secure a car but not a jet? $\endgroup$ – user1298069 Jan 22 '15 at 8:33
  • $\begingroup$ How many people can steal a jet? Then most bigger planes get a new pilot every flight, a key gets lost easily, and that leads to a delay, or many copies of keys which would be impossible to track. Using passwords? Same problem! $\endgroup$ – SPRBRN Jan 22 '15 at 9:30
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    $\begingroup$ The bigger the plane, the more likely that it's parked at a big airport. Big airports have access controls to the tarmac, enforced with armed guards. They also have mandatory ATC clearance before taking off, and bigger planes are very likely to have a flight plan (it's not always required, but it's odd to not have it and can get a call to the airline). Basically, it's really hard to pull off stealing a big plane. $\endgroup$ – cpast Jan 22 '15 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ Not to mention you don't start a jet by just flipping a lever $\endgroup$ – Masse Jan 23 '15 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ Also what are you going to do with the stolen plane? Every plane has a tail number and is registered and if a plane misses an inspection it loses its airworthiness certificate and makes it illegal to fly. And no self respecting pilot will buy a used plane without the proper paper trail unlike with a car. $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Jan 23 '15 at 15:22

For smaller aircraft there often isn't anything, but some (especially newer models) do have an ignition much like a car

Some small aircraft and many business jets have an entry key - ie for the doors. It's hard to start the engine if you can't get on board the aircraft! This is especially common for aircraft which are parked at insecure airports.

Commercial airliners usually have nothing, but they are also very difficult to get to, never mind start. If you manage to get to one, sit there for long enough to start it, taxi it to a runway and takeoff..., you'd have taken long enough to alert the authorities and immediately get shot down

  • $\begingroup$ Still it sounds strange that an industry with such high security standards leaves an elementary security hole. Of course the chances of anybody actually trying to steal an airliner are very slim, but the same is true of anybody actually trying to hijack or blow up one. Btw assigning a password to the PIC as part of the usual assignment procedure would not be so impractical. Then the valid passwords should be changed for ervery flight of course, which is very possible using smart software. $\endgroup$ – Rob Vermeulen Feb 2 '15 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ The security is abstracted from the aircraft: it shouldn't even be possible to get close to one. Answer this: when was the last time one was stolen? $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Feb 2 '15 at 15:13

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