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Sat, Oct 27, 2007

AOPA Asserts CBP Proposal For GA Security 'Unworkable'

Urges Pilots To Tell Agency Why

It started out as a simple idea: identify who is flying into the United States aboard general aviation aircraft before they arrive. But the way the Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) wants to implement the plan is unworkable, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association... and AOPA is calling on pilots to tell the agency why.

As ANN reported, the CBP proposal would require any general aviation pilot flying into or out of the United States to file an arrival/departure notice and a passenger manifest via the Internet at least one hour before crossing the border.

"AOPA members have told us that it is difficult to find a working telephone, much less a computer with Internet access, at many of the international locations that they fly to," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "And we're very concerned about establishing the precedent that a government agency must give you approval before you can start a flight in domestic US airspace."

AOPA urges pilots to file formal comments before the November 19 deadline, to make sure CBP understands the impact the proposal would have on individual pilots.

In CBP's idealized world, AOPA says, pilots would log onto a Web site at least one hour before flying across the US border, punch in an ID and passengers' names, and then get an approval to fly.

But the reality is that pilots don't have universal access to the Internet inside the United States... much less from a Baja airstrip, or a Bahamian cay. And requiring pilots to land at another airport with Internet access before crossing the border just to be able to file a passenger list is impractical and an unreasonable burden.

"CBP must allow alternative means for operators of small aircraft to file their arrival/departure notification and passenger manifest, as the current system already does," said Cebula. "In the real world, sometimes a telephone or radio call to flight service is the best you can do. And they have to recognize that GA pilots sometimes have to change schedules for weather or operational considerations, and we need choices beyond the Internet to let customs and Homeland Security know about changed plans for entering or exiting the United States."

FMI: www.aopa.org/advocacy/customs/index.html, www.regulations.gov

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