Do planes have keys?


Do planes have keys

This obvious question could easily pop up in mind of any person that whether an aircraft is started like a car or scooter and are there any keys which are required for flying an aircraft. This question would be addressed in a step by step approach in this article. Firstly the Gliders should be discussed as they are the simplest form of aircraft without any engine. Gliders are usually locked in hangars (Hangar is a building used for housing aircraft). Most of the gliders do not have any lock. There is no ignition key required as the gliders don’t have any engine. To sit in the cockpit of a glider, one has to unlock the glass dome by grabbing the release handle.  

Glider with door open

Preventing general aviation aircraft from being stolen:

Cessna Skycatcher
Cessna Skycatcher
The next type of aircraft to be considered for analysis is the small private propeller driven aircraft or small trainer aircraft. Cessna Skycatcher is an example of such aircraft. These aircraft are easily accessible as they are parked outside at the airfield. Therefore for these aircraft, a key is mandatory, which would be used not only to lock the door but also as an ignition key. Still, there are few cases where an aircraft standing at the airfield has been stolen. There are various safety alarms available in the market for aircraft, like those which are used to prevent thieves from stealing a car. There is an electric starter motor for most of the aircraft in the general aviation category. Therefore the key is turned to connect battery and starter motor. Key is also used to check the two magnets of the engine ignition system, during engine run-up procedure.  

Considering the safety of airliners:

Cessna Citation Excel

Keys are required to open the main door, which would unfold the stairs to enter cabin in business jets like Cessna Citation but no key is required to start up the engines. To make aircraft more temper proof, some executive jets have a key to start the electrical system. For airliners, no key is required to enter the cabin or to start the engine. So how the security of the airliners would be assured?
Airliners are parked at controlled airports, which have 24-hour surveillance. Local security could easily notice any sort of unapproved movement and cause for alarm. Seals are used in case the airliners are parked away from the surveillance area. Seals have numbered sprocket stickers which can stick to any door or latch. The thief would have to break the seal before entering the cabin and there is no way by which the seal could stick back again. So, once the crew arrive at the parked aircraft and find any seal missing or damaged then that cabin crew will perform a thorough search of the aircraft before the first passenger is on board.  

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A crisp conclusion to the use of a key for an aircraft:                                    
The airliners are neither started with a key nor do they have a key for locking its doors. The smaller aircraft have locks on the door and sometimes their flight controls are locked with a padlock as they are more likely to be parked outside at uncontrolled airfields. There is an interesting TV series: “Airplane Repo” in which pilots repossess all sorts of aircraft from piper cubs to business jets without using any key.

Thanks for reading!

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