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Rotax 912 engine thefts and "plane spotters"

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Rotax 912 engine thefts and "plane spotters"

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Old 21st Aug 2016, 08:45
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Rotax 912 engine thefts and "plane spotters"

I'm sticking my neck out a long way here and I'm also clutching at straws. I have no problem with plane spotters in general, who are always respectful and friendly when they visit our airfield. Sometimes they have tea and a chat with us.


However there have been a few recent break-ins at different airfields, entailing theft of Rotax 912 engines, some tools and equipment. Thus far nobody has been able to identify the culprits, as far as I know.


My concern is that these criminals could be posing as 'plane spotters in order to get a good look at aircraft which they wish to target on a later occasion. If this is even slightly likely, perhaps we could attempt to deter them in some way.


My initial thought is to insist that anyone wanting to come and see aircraft at our airfield should present photo ID and accept having their picture taken by us before admission to our premises. This might deter potential criminals.


If you think that this is a good idea, please spread it far and wide throughout the light aircraft community. I don't know many other fora and yet we all need to get involved with counteracting this scourge. Please help if you can.
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Old 21st Aug 2016, 09:01
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* spotters are sometimes organised into clubs, with membership cards and all. Such a membership card should make a good impression, I think.
* I can't imagine a genuine spotter would object to being identifyable, in one way or another. OTOH there are often hobby photographers around airfields, who are not specifically into aircraft but just into fine sights.
* Any details of recent thefts? I heard similar reports from Germany, perhaps one or two years ago, and, even earlier, from France.
* Isn't there a web page (at rotax.www ?) where the serial numbers of stolen engines are listed?
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Old 21st Aug 2016, 09:18
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Jan. Thanks for your supportive words. Yes there have been recent thefts of 3 Rotax 912 engines:


Sad to report, three more Rotax engines stolen, along with tools, headsets etc. This time from Holmbeck Farm airfield, Wing, Buckinghamshire.

The thefts follow almost the same scenario as those reported in Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire earlier this year. In this case three aircraft were targeted, two gyroplanes and a Skyranger. All three had relatively low-hours Rotax 912 engines, which were removed, but the pusher propellers from the gyros were left behind. It is noteworthy too, that two similar aircraft on the strip with high hours 912 engines were left untouched. As with the previous thefts, it was clearly a planned raid, with the thieves accessing the airfield across country and removing the engines with care.

ALL MEMBERS, please be on the lookout for ‘too good to be true’ bargain offerings, and please also exercise due vigilance if you fly from a private strip, perhaps reinforcing any security. We’re liaising with the local Police to share our knowledge of the earlier incidents. If you have any information which might help apprehend these villains, please contact LAA HQ.

Stolen items:

Rotax 912 100 hp serial number 6-776-335
Rotax 914 Turbo serial number 7-682-547
Rotax 912 UL 80 80-HP serial number 4400622

16th August 2016


Sorry, but I don't know if there is a list published of engine serial numbers.
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Old 21st Aug 2016, 09:33
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A quich G search found me a pdf document like I had in mind, only it is not quite recent. Not clear whether Rotax still keep that list up to date and publish it with any frequency.

https://www.google.be/url?sa=t&rct=j...oOh1UtSzTxQ8OQ
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Old 21st Aug 2016, 10:11
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Thanks again Jan. I'm shocked at the extent of these crimes and can't imagine that they're all being committed by the same people.


Everyone please take a look at the link above which Jan has provided.
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Old 21st Aug 2016, 10:30
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The link I provided is not very good, it serves merely as an example. I feel confident that a web crawler more able than myself could find a more recent version of the same document, or, better still, a web page that always points to the most recent edition. The good thing about is, though, this list is a bit official, being kept by the engine manufacturer.

All theft of Rotax engines should be reported to Rotax, for inclusion - it is one of the few things we can do.
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Old 21st Aug 2016, 19:58
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Good idea. However it would probably need to be an international list, due to such thefts happening around the world. My suspicion is that most or all of the engines stolen end up across the Channel, probably in Eastern Europe. Anyway somewhere that questions aren't asked about engine serial numbers.
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Old 21st Aug 2016, 20:07
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"Perhaps, depending on how many Rotax engines we are talking about, we could have a website with an aircraft reg and a Rotax serial."
What would that achieve, aside from informing all of the villains what serial numbered engines are where?

There must be a number of applications which "could" use a 100 hp petrol engine, most won't be aviation or even given a proper registration. Think hovercraft, dune buggies, jet ski, anything else people dream up to build in their garages.

Some aircraft types don't necessarily have to use a Rotax engine either. I know of more than one type that may use a Rotax or a Jabiru or a UL or a D Motor or any of several other types.
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Old 21st Aug 2016, 20:39
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Given the high number and effort it takes to nick them, they must be getting stolen to order for a specific use. I suppose these engines being good quality and high spec are pretty desirable for all kinds of applications.
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Old 21st Aug 2016, 20:51
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They'll never make more money than in the application they were designed for.

And yes, those stolen in UK will be sold elsewhere (and vice versa) - where exactly is not very relevant.

Above all: there is zero need to reinvent the wheel, a list of stolen engines exists and is published from time to time. Unfortunately I cannot say who is the owner (some person or department within the Rotax Company, but who?) nor where to always find the latest version.
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Old 21st Aug 2016, 21:04
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I have mixed feelings about Colibri's first post.

On one level, challenging and identifying people who are round and about our airfields seems extremely sensible. On another level, it is acting in a somewhat hostile and suspicious manner towards people who traditionally we'd just freely chat to.

I think that if going down this route it's probably wise to put up warning signs along the lines of "welcome to XXX airfield, visitors may be asked to identify themselves and show photo ID", if only so that the sign can be pointed at.


One thought - I'm in a small group with two friends operating a 912 engined microlight on a farmstrip. A few months ago we changed our name on G-INFO from "(Airfield name) (Microlight type) syndicate" to "(Registration) (Microlight type) syndicate" so that the location of the aeroplane isn't so obvious. Also - if you have a member with a home address right next to the airfield - don't use them as the trustee, as their address will appear on G-INFO and gives too heavy a clue as to the aircraft's location also.

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Old 21st Aug 2016, 22:38
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G-INFO and other national registries make it far too easy for thieves to locate airframes with Rotax engines.

Searching a registry is much simpler than visiting out of the way airfields.

So Yes, be careful what information you have on your national registry.

Self launch and motor gliders have been suffering from the same depredations on the continent.
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Old 22nd Aug 2016, 05:40
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Part of the game is am improper balance of transparency. While the spotters collect and many publish photos of the aircraft, we don't have it the other way around. So, potential thieves get their information from spotters data, but we don't get the data of the spotters ...

We have a lot of spotters at our airfield, but they are almost 90+% organized in two clubs and wear club ID cards, they attend our pilots briefing meetings and we know them. It is even a little bit like a neighborhood watch, as they tend to take pictures of to them unknown foreign spotters ...

Theft of Rotax appears to be an increasing issue. I suspect it comes as a result of the microlight business with no registrations whatsoever. Maybe we start a discussion to get this business under certification monitoring again?
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Old 22nd Aug 2016, 05:40
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These days, G-INFO being open to all only serves as a thieves shopping list. It is high time it was restricted, or at least allowed users the option to redact their listing.
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Old 22nd Aug 2016, 06:57
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@CH: encouraging self-control among the spotters community is a very good idea.

OTOH you confuse me with the "no registrations whatsoever" phrase - my microlight at least carries a registration, and so do all I have yet seen. Only the US'an single-seaters have none, AFAIK.

Theft of Rotaxen is not an increasing issue, in my observation, one hears of a handful per annum since several years. The pdf I linked to seems to confirm this.
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Old 22nd Aug 2016, 07:34
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Part of the game is am improper balance of transparency. While the spotters collect and many publish photos of the aircraft, we don't have it the other way around. So, potential thieves get their information from spotters data, but we don't get the data of the spotters ...

We have a lot of spotters at our airfield, but they are almost 90+% organized in two clubs and wear club ID cards,
Where is this place - I've never seen spotters anywhere wearing visible ID cards.


they attend our pilots briefing meetings and we know them.
They attend what?

It is even a little bit like a neighborhood watch, as they tend to take pictures of to them unknown foreign spotters ...
That sounds highly unlikely.

Theft of Rotax appears to be an increasing issue. I suspect it comes as a result of the microlight business with no registrations whatsoever.
All microlights, in pretty much any country, display visible registrations - just like all other aeroplanes do.


Maybe we start a discussion to get this business under certification monitoring again?
"Certification monitoring"?????????, you just made that term up.


At some point Chickenhouse, I'll work out precisely why you keep posting these mixtures of stuff off the internet from other countries, and made up nonsense, to try and pass yourself off as an aviation expert.

Whilst you are playing these games, people are genuinely worried about having their engines stolen.

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Old 22nd Aug 2016, 13:06
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Information and pictures posted by spotters are certainly a resource that the would-be thief could use, but how about an even more obvious one:

"1/4 share in 2014 Thripps Thunderclap Microlight. Rotax 912S has only 100 hrs from new. Kept under all-weather Jaxida covers at Bloggston Farm. Loss of medical forces reluctant sale of share. Excellent weekday availability, as other syndicate members only fly weekends. Call 07*********"

Our would-be thief, looking for a five-fingered discount on a 912, may even have the brass neck to phone up and ask how secure the aircraft is and what is involved in getting to the aircraft for weekday flying (not an unreasonable question from a prospective shareholder). At this point our seller spills the beans on all the security arrangements.

I'm not a spotter, but the ones I have met are, on the whole, decent people, regardless of how strange you may consider what they do for fun. A lot are members of the LAA, and by going to shows and fly-ins keep the costs down for flyers. Making them aware of the problem and agreeing a code of conduct would go along way to reducing the risk. The best people to police the spotters and their website postings are other spotters.

The more honest and alert eyes there are at an airfield through the day, the more difficult it is for the thieves.

Last edited by Mechta; 22nd Aug 2016 at 18:20.
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Old 22nd Aug 2016, 14:32
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I showed a spotter around recently. He was familiar with the airfield from years ago, and mentioned a couple of names that I recognised. He had an extensive knowledge of various types and their history and thanked me profusely for my time.


I have to admit jotting down his car registration as he left.
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Old 22nd Aug 2016, 19:18
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Should be pretty easy to differentiate between the thieves and the spotters, lack of anorak would be a dead giveaway !
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Old 22nd Aug 2016, 20:29
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I don't know about anoraks, but last time I met a heavy gaggle of spotters - one of the Popham fly-ins, I was bemused to notice that a lot of the hard core spotters had given up on traditional notepads and started to record everything on iPads.

I wonder if there are debates in spotting circles about whether using an iPad for recording your spotting is true "spotting", or losing the basics of spotting. Whilst some other spotters are telling the diehards still using notepads and pencils that they are missing the advantages that modern technology offers to do their spotting safer and more accurately.

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