NCA unveils campaign to disrupt the use of airfields and light aircraft by organised criminals


22 April 2014 

The National Crime Agency is appealing to people who work in general aviation or live near small airports to join the fight against organised crime and terrorism by reporting unusual activity.

A project, codenamed Pegasus, encourages people familiar with small airports to report unusual activity, threats and vulnerabilities associated with general aviation.

General aviation covers activity outside commercial passenger flights and large-scale airfreight. It includes light aircraft, microlights, helicopters and business jets, and activities such as aerial surveys, agriculture, corporate flights, and leisure flying including gliding and parachuting.

The NCA believes that people involved with these activities are perfectly placed to spot out of place behaviour that could be an indicator of criminal activity.

The UK has:

  • More than 3000 aerodromes, small airfields, farmers’ field strips, and helipads;
  • around 47,000 Civil Aviation Authority-licensed pilots; and 
  • around 20,000 light aircraft.

Around 90,000 general aviation flights come into the UK every year.

Serious and organised criminals and terrorists can exploit this for crimes ranging from illegal immigration, importing hard drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines, and trafficking firearms.

David Armond, Director of the NCA’s Border Policing Command, said: “This is an area where we are convinced the public can really help law enforcement disrupt criminal activity. You might have seen unfamiliar people in sensitive areas of the airport, or unusual patterns of activity such as night-time airdrops. That information could be key to an investigation into an organised criminal network or terrorist group.

“Information about unusual use of aircraft or activity in and around the airfield should be reported no matter how trivial it may seem.”

Information may include:

  • The event. What happened, when, why was it unusual?
  • Details of the aircraft. Description, any markings or modifications, who owns it?
  • Flight details, such as type of flight, flight plans and timings.
  • Information about the pilot or crew.
  • The site itself. Any deviation from normal use or unusual activity around a grounded aircraft.

Anyone with information about unusual activity at airports, and in particular those who work in general aviation or who live near small airports and landing strips, can report anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via their Giving Information Form or they can report to their local police force on 101, quoting “Pegasus”.

Pegasus is being delivered by the NCA in partnership with UK police forces and Border Force, in consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority. Further information is available on the campaigns page.

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