Customs fixes Florida delay problems

AOPA's inquiries help customs officials uncover cause of delays

April 30, 2013

After pilots were forced to sit in their hot aircraft for hours on the ramps of Florida airports of entry waiting to clear U.S. Customs in late March, AOPA contacted the Customs and Border Protection national headquarters to investigate.

Was it a fluke? Were the staffing reductions and new hours caused by sequestration’s budget cuts?

AOPA asked for answers and requested that customs work with pilots to prevent long waits in hot aircraft that could lead not only to overheating aircraft (and pilot tempers), but to possible medical complications from the heat.

When customs headquarters looked into the matter, officials discovered a change made at the regional level at an inopportune time—the height of springtime traffic flying between the U.S. and the Bahamas.

Staffing levels and hours of operation are now returning to normal. Effective May 5, customs operations at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, the second-busiest GA customs facility in the United States, will once again be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. local at previous staffing levels.

“AOPA maintains close contact with customs officials, and we were able to notify them of the hours-long delays pilots were experiencing in Florida and inquire as to what would have caused the change in customs hours of operations,” said Tom Zecha, AOPA manager of aviation security. “Customs was responsive and looked into the incidents and took actions to resume normal operation.”