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How to Prevent Your RV From Being Stolen

gmcjetpilot

Well Known Member
I have dual P-Mags, going w/ toggles & push button start is plan A.
Plan B, typical keyed mag / start switch, but not hard to defeat and price is shocking.
Back to plan B but no KEY... I suppose for cheap keyed switch just for starting. (ideas?)

Being in locked hanger is best, but when on trips it could be out in open, and some airports are not too secure (at all).
Keeping canopy locked (track lock) is a help.
There are PROP locks... etc. Hidden kill switch or switches of ignition and/or electrical system? Ideas.
When Hyundai and Kia's (models without immobilizers) were being stolen in mass, some added a kill switch and "The Club" to stop joy rides.

I heard of a few RV's being stolen over several decades, rare and few. Statistics (verified) are difficult to find.
Theft of avionics is more common...

What do you think.... besides having insurance for full hull.
 
Being in locked hanger is best, but when on trips it could be out in open, and some airports are not too secure (at all).
Keeping canopy locked (track lock) is a help.
There are PROP locks... etc. Hidden kill switch or switches of ignition and/or electrical system? Ideas.
When Hyundai and Kia's (models without immobilizers) were being stolen in mass, some added a kill switch and "The Club" to stop joy rides.

In Australia, where we have the Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005 regulation 4.72, this is kinda significant even if you don't think anyone's going to steal your airplane: https://www8.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/cth/consol_reg/atsr2005457/s4.72.html

Some common ideas:
  • When you tie down, loop a (slack, longer than your rope!) chain through the anchor point on the ramp and the anchor point on the tail and padlock the ends together. Not useful if you're hammering in stakes instead of using rings set into pavement.

  • Lockable wheel chocks (like wheel clamping your car). Not useful for RVs because we all have wheel pants.

  • Lockable gust locks. If you can lock the anti-splat unit in place, you'd kill two birds with one stone. https://antisplataero.com/product/ultimate-gust-lock/

  • Most common: Throttle lock https://www.aircraftspruce.com/catalog/pspages/skylock.php Fits over the throttle knob, held on with a padlock.

  • Homebrew complicated: https://mooneyspace.com/topic/36220-homemade-throttle-lock/

  • Homebrew simple: Get a scrap of sheet aluminium about 4" x 2". Bend it around a bit of 1/4" tube so it's doubled over 2" x 2", and drill a 3/8" hole through it for a padlock hasp. Hang it over your throttle pushrod and lock it, can't advance past idle power without taking it off.
There are plenty of alternatives.

If you're parked outside, it's probably more likely someone's going to steal your avionics than your whole plane. Keep your canopy unlocked: If they want to run away with your GTN-650, it's probably best if they do it without smashing your windows.

- mark
 
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I'm interested to hear what everybody thinks about this.

I've got toggle and a pushbutton for starting (no key). I'm not going to install any kind of secret kill switch or whatever. I think the cons outweigh the pros.

I'm on the fence about a locking feature for the canopy. It would be super easy to install a simple cabinet lock that would engage a slot in the slider track, but as you point out, I think it's much more likely that you would get your radios stolen than the whole airplane and in that case I'd rather have an empty panel than an empty panel plus a bashed in canopy.

Sort of the same philosophy as when I had a soft top jeep. I never locked it because I didn't want somebody to slash the $1000 top open just so they could steal a $20 bag of gym clothes. I went for years without anybody taking anything out of it.
 
I made this mostly for safety to ensure the mags and battery switch are off and remain off when I get out of the plane. It also serves as something of a theft deterrent.
 

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I used one of these on my last RV8 to enable/disable my starter push button:


I’ve also used the secret hidden toggle switch to disable the start circuit. Of course with both ideas, a thief would have to get in to the cockpit through my locked slider canopy somehow.
 
I have never worried about it. It is very rare, and if someone really wants it, you are not going to stop them. Locks are easy to pick or brake. An ignition disable switch is maybe best, but do you want to risk inadvertently tripping it in flight? It would be fairly easy to disable that switch if someone understands the ignition system.
You are correct that avionics theft is a more realistic concern. Locking the cabin might result in damage to the airplane. I would rather not have my canopy smashed AND my avionics stolen. My approach it to have insurance and not loose sleep worrying about the improbable.
 
I went with this system:


Very cool and modern.

Yep cool. For $999 it does everything, except wash the plane. If it did wash plane I'd be all in.... Ha ha. Very cool. It seems to be geared for G3X. I'm not using Garmin EFIS. However I don't know it may be adaptable to other EFIS? Not for me but very cool with a lot of functions, start allowed in presence of Fob, flight/audio recording, lighting control, smart phone App, multi users, on and on. Way over kill for me... thank you for bring it to our attention...
 
Locking the cabin might result in damage to the airplane. I would rather not have my canopy smashed AND my avionics stolen. My approach it to have insurance and not loose sleep worrying about the improbable.

I feel the same way which is why I chose not to put a lock on my canopy. I even bought the locks from Spruce, but before drilling the holes, I looked at my canopy and decided that for how difficult that darn thing was to make, I'd rather the thief just open the canopy normally and take what they want. Until insurance rates become different for locked vs. unlocked canopies, I'll probably be lock-less. (I know, I know, don't give insurers any ideas...)

For locking control surfaces and so on, I think the threat is more from joyriders and kids who just want to jump the fence, taxi around, and do damage, and less from an actual pilot who actually wants to take off and fly. So you really want to disable the starter/ignition. That said, I really like the idea of figuring out how to lock the Anti-Splat gust lock, since I already have one of them.
 
I made this mostly for safety to ensure the mags and battery switch are off and remain off when I get out of the plane. It also serves as something of a theft deterrent.
I went this route, too. Simple, easy, cheap, effective.

Anybody who really wants to steal the airplane and who has even a little bit of knowledge will quickly figure out how to cut P-leads to open them - I know that. I also know the door locks on our Sportsman are pretty much useless because anybody with a pair of 3/8" wrenches can just remove the door hinge bolts. Locks only keep honest and lazy people out.
 
I think the threat is more from joyriders and kids who just want to jump the fence, taxi around, and do damage, and less from an actual pilot who actually wants to take off and fly. So you really want to disable the starter/ignition.
+1. If you do nothing to discourage kids their parents will sue if they get hurt.
 
I agree on not locking the canopy. That is my practice as well. As for the starter circuit, I wire it through the strobe lights. Most people wouldn't think to turn them on to start. It also works as a nice safety feature--- no starting without the strobes on. :)

I had a friend lose his airplane to a drunk person getting in it and starting it, then riding it wildly our of control across the ramp. So sad.

Vic
 
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Yep cool. For $999 it does everything, except wash the plane. If it did wash plane I'd be all in.... Ha ha. Very cool. It seems to be geared for G3X. I'm not using Garmin EFIS. However I don't know it may be adaptable to other EFIS? Not for me but very cool with a lot of functions, start allowed in presence of Fob, flight/audio recording, lighting control, smart phone App, multi users, on and on. Way over kill for me... thank you for bring it to our attention...
I went with the 500 version.. simpler and no Garmin integration. But still really cool.
 
I agree on not lockin gthe canopy. That is my practice as well. As for the starter circuit, I wire it through the strobe lights. Most people wouldn't think to turn them on to start. It also works as a nice safety feature--- no starting without the strobes on. :)

I had a friend lose his airplane to a drunk person getting in it and starting it, then riding it wildly our of control across the ramp. So sad.

Vic
what happens if you turn strobe off in flight?
 
The strobe light just powers the starting circuit on the starter, not the ignition. The chances of having an engine come to a complete stop in flight requiring the starter, and you've also turned off the strobes, seems rather low. Plus, it's my arplane so it's habit to turn on strobes to activate the starter. :)
 
Don't be like this guy!
I was walking the flight line at a fairly large fly-in and came upon an open cockpit biplane with both mag switches in the "UP" position. Fortunately the owner was standing near. I brought the switches to his attention and was quickly informed that was a "theft deterrent". He had wired them so that the mags were off in the up position and on when the switches were down. He felt that a thief would not try to start the engine with the switches "down".
I had a short talk with him and told him that this is not practical and that it is also quite dangerous. Had he not been around, anyone seeing this would probably flip the switches down to turn the mags "off", thereby, inadvertently making them "HOT".
 
I went with the 500 version.. simpler and no Garmin integration. But still really cool.
I have the cheap one too. It’s very handy. It’s well thought out and does a lot of things that I don’t have much use for. Although I have used the WiFi to start it when I left the key at home once.
I retrofitted it at about 50h. My original physical key interlock I stupidly put inside my center console thinking it would be out of the way. So I’d have to open the lid - enable start - close lid - start engine - open lid - disable start. It got old quickly.
The Garmin integration / data recording is of little use imho. Other than voice, the Garmin does that already.
I reckon if they made a $200-$300 version that did nothing but the key/start circuit they would sell lots to experimental.
The Bluetooth beacons are cheap as chips.
 
2 master switches in series. One is hidden and cannot be accidentally switched. The unsuspecting would think the battery is dead when closing the panel switch.
 
My Rocket has an unlabeled start button on the Infinity stick grip and an unlabeled start-enable switch next to my boost pump switch.
Too many variables for a thief to figure out.
I love that I can easily hold the stick full aft while cranking. In the event of an engine failure the boost pump and starter enable switches would be flipped on simultaneously so the starter is available in flight.
 
I have been using a combination lock on a throttle lock when tied down on the ramp away from home since my RV-6 started flying. I have a throttle with friction lock like used on Cessna 152 and 172.
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2 master switches in series. One is hidden and cannot be accidentally switched. The unsuspecting would think the battery is dead when closing the panel switch.
Thus, two single-point failure locations in series. Interesting approach.
 
My RV is capable of running extremely rich because the Precision Airmotive fuel servo is calibrated to support extra fuel flow for Nitrous Oxide during air racing. The shop that did the calibration cautioned that at full rich the engine will likely bog down and that could be dangerous. I told them that I’m used to adjusting the mixture during all phases of flight and it won’t be a problem. They said that if someone else flies my plane it might cause them to go down. I said “well that will serve them right;).”* That sounds like a theft prevention device to me :).

* in reality, the engine runs just fine at full rich - it’s a stock IO-360 and can flow up to ~ 23 GPH at sea level. It does lose some power but it makes enough to fly just fine.

Skylor
 
My RV is capable of running extremely rich because the Precision Airmotive fuel servo is calibrated to support extra fuel flow for Nitrous Oxide during air racing. The shop that did the calibration cautioned that at full rich the engine will likely bog down and that could be dangerous. I told them that I’m used to adjusting the mixture during all phases of flight and it won’t be a problem. They said that if someone else flies my plane it might cause them to go down. I said “well that will serve them right;).”* That sounds like a theft prevention device to me :).

* in reality, the engine runs just fine at full rich - it’s a stock IO-360 and can flow up to ~ 23 GPH at sea level. It does lose some power but it makes enough to fly just fine.

Skylor
I want to hear more about the nitrous!
 
I have a tracking device on my trailer that shows me where it is on the planet at all times. It has a 5yr battery inside it and it pings twice a day to any cell towers it can find. Size of a pack of cigarettes (when will we need a new size reference that people have seen lol). It’s not theft prevention but at least it will help you get it back. Some sort of hidden kill switch is probably a better idea.
 
I use a throttle lock from AS, heavy but the contractor lock is impossible to get a bolt cutter on. I just want any thief to decide it’s not worth the effort and move to another hanger/plane. I have no canopy lock in hopes a thief doesn’t break into on open plane. They can take the radio, I’ll get a new one from my insurance carrier.
 
Ask your insurance company.......
If I don't lock my aircraft and my panel is stolen, Will it be covered.
 
Ask your insurance company.......
If I don't lock my aircraft and my panel is stolen, Will it be covered.
I boldly predict they will say “yes, it will be covered.” I’m not aware of any policies that exclude unlocked aircraft, and I wonder how that would even work (e.g., my airplane has no lock; doesn’t even have a keyed ignition).

This is all assuming you have hull insurance and not just liability. 🤣

Perhaps the insurers have concluded, like many of us, that requiring locks might just result in more damage they have to pay for.

I don’t think consumer auto or home policies have exclusions for unlocked cars or unlocked homes, either.

But I’m no expert and I’m certainly ready to sit corrected on all of this.
 
I am trying to understand this setup. If we are flying inside cloud and we want to turn off the strobe to avoid the flashes.. would that be possible? or would it shut off the engine?
 

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I fly with doors off and even when I fly with doors, they don't have locks. I installed one of these battery cutoffs behind the rear seats where the batteries are. When I go to other airports I'll remove and take the red key with me. What are the odds that the person who suddenly sees my plane sitting there in the middle of all the other planes that day has one of these keys in his pocket and knows he needs one?

I'm more worried about having my headsets and avionics stolen than the entire plane.
 

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I am trying to understand this setup. If we are flying inside cloud and we want to turn off the strobe to avoid the flashes.. would that be possible? or would it shut off the engine?
In the scenario, ONLY the starter circuit is involved. Yes, you need strobes to engage the starter, but ignition is not compromised.
 
Similar to Vic.
I have a push-button start switch on my RV-7 Tipup. I installed a switch on the Sub-Panel labeled EFIS Power. In the ON position it opens the starter solenoid circuit. I also have a small hole drilled through the canopy outside handle that I can put a small "Master" lock on. It would be easy to cut it to gain cockpit access, but I don't normally use it.
 
I use a hidden master switch, works great because unless you know where it is, you will not start my plane. Happened several years ago at a fly in guy decided he wanted to fly my plane. I gave him 5 minutes to get it started, he tried every switch button, and a few choice words but never got my plane started. Was I worried? nope it's extremely hard to find. I climbed in after he got out and was walking away started my plane and taxied away. Would I do that again? no way! And to set the record straight, he was a seasoned RV driver. Bottom line is whatever works best for you, use it. If someone really wants to steal your plane they will, and no amount of prevention is going to stop them.
 
I wonder if someone can even get database updates for a stolen Garmin GTN 650. The updates seem to be coded to the specific units they have been licensed for. I know that the updates on the data cards for the older Garmin GNC 300XL in my kitfox will work in any GNC 300XL but I don't think that is the case for the newer units. Does anyone have specific info on this?
 
Ask your insurance company.......
If I don't lock my aircraft and my panel is stolen, Will it be covered.
I had the center stack stolen from my cherokee last year while it sat on the tie down at my home airport (along with 3 other victims). Insurance covered the entire replacement and never once asked if the door was locked. Among those who did have locked doors, well they just ended up with missing avionics and a broken airplane.
 
I'm not worried about anyone stealing my plane. And avionics? That's what insurance is for.

What I want to prevent is some moron (and the world is full of them) monkeying with switches and buttons and causing the starter to engage, or (as numerous posts here have mentioned, deciding that their kid should be allowed to play pilot). That's why I have a keyswitch that must be ON for the starter to engage or the mags (precisely, the left mag with the impulse coupler) to be hot (because I've seen people let their kids hang props like they're a chin-up bar). I think "double-secret switches" are gimmicky and unnecessary, but hey...it's your aircraft, if it makes you happy, go for it.

To repeat the question...are there any records of an RV being stolen?
 
Thieves are typically lazy or in an hurry. Airplanes are parked in large groups and rows. I am curious if your canopy is locked, they will just move to the next one where the canopy is left unlocked. The easiest will always be the most likely stolen. Sort of like I don’t need to be the fastest runner to avoid the bear, just faster than those with me. I do have a canopy lock on my slider but only use it at OSH to keep bad mannered looky-Loos from opening my canopy.
Not big concern for me as I am always in a locked hangar at an airport with security cameras. My worry in the hangar is much more the stuff that is not in the airplane like tools and shop equipment. Those items are way more liquid to a thief.
 
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