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This question already has an answer here:

Is there something like an ignition key for planes?
Or could one "just enter" and fly away if they could?

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marked as duplicate by FreeMan, Community Apr 20 '15 at 16:21

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The planes I have trained in (single engined Piper Cherokees/Warriors) do indeed have an ignition key, without which the magneto system (which drives the spark plugs) and the starter cannot be engaged. Without being certain, I would assume the same goes for other small GA aircraft.

When you get to airliners I have no idea whether there are keys for locking the controls - as the controls are much more complex, the keys probably won't be directly connected to ignition systems or starters, and I wouldn't be surprised if the primary security method is keeping doors locked.

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  • $\begingroup$ That being said, in small planes it's much easier to hot-wire an airplane than even a car. All the keys do is to ground the p-lead in each magneto preventing it from generating spark. And when you turn it it disconnects the ground and engages the starter. So if you don't have the keys, it's simple. Open th. Close cowl. Then starting it is as simple as an old school hand prop start. Someone in the plane holding the brakes and controlling the mixture, throttle while (hopefully not you) is outside and hand prop the plane. $\endgroup$ – TB Flyer Apr 21 '15 at 1:14
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    $\begingroup$ Pretty sure I remember seeing on a documentary that a key was involved in the hand-over ceremony as a new (large) airliner was delivered from the manufacturer to the customer (airline). However, the key may have had more of a symbolic purpose than a functional one. $\endgroup$ – Anthony X Apr 21 '15 at 1:59

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