June 27, 2013
By Alyssa J. Miller
The Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have responded to AOPA with a call from the Freedom of Information Office, promising to explore the delay in responding to AOPA’s letter to acting Customs Commissioner Thomas S. Winkowski. AOPA had demanded answers as to why law-abiding pilots flying within the United States are being stopped, detained, and sometimes their aircraft are searched—all without any explanation.
AOPA isn’t waiting for answers and is building a case against CBP to take the issue to the next level.
AOPA members are writing to the association, sharing their experiences that range from being stopped by law enforcement officials and asked to produce their pilot credentials, to being questioned, to being detained for four hours and their aircraft searched. The association is using the information to gain a better understanding of how far-reaching the issue is. AOPA asks pilot to continue sending any incidents they’ve had with law enforcement officials stopping them with their aircraft.
In addition to AOPA General Counsel Ken Mead’s June 19 letter, Freedom of Information Act requests from AOPA to CBP have received little response.
In the letter, Mead warned, “If CBP does not respond to our request and produce the required information and documents by July 20, 2013, this letter serves as notice that we will pursue such other remedies as available at law and advise the appropriate members of Congress and congressional committees of this matter and seek their intervention.”
While the general aviation community works with AOPA to build the case, the association has been distributing a checklist for pilots to carry on their kneeboards and refer to if stopped by law enforcement. AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services program will be providing a free insert of the checklist that pilots can tear out and take with them in the August issue of AOPA Pilot magazine.
AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Miller has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.
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