March 25, 2013
By AOPA ePublishing staff
Pilots trying to clear customs to return to the United States are feeling the effects of sequestration up close and personal—sometimes stuck in their aircraft for hours before being permitted to deplane.
Rick Gardner, AOPA’s authorized representative for the Bahamas, Mexico, and Central America, contacted AOPA staff from Fort Lauderdale Executive after waiting in his aircraft for more than two hours to clear customs. Pilots must stay in their aircraft upon arrival at a port of entry until a customs official meets them. Hours-long waits can be problematic, especially in warmer climates along the southern U.S. border.
AOPA Vice President of the Pilot Information Center Woody Cahall contacted fixed-base operators in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, who confirmed that aircraft were backed up to clear customs.
Pilots who have contacted AOPA after clearing customs have said that officials are blaming the long waits on a reduction in staffing because of the sequester. So far, reports of delays have come to AOPA only from pilots crossing the U.S. southern border, particularly in Florida and Texas. The association has not yet received reports of similar problems from pilots crossing the border from Canada.
AOPA continues to reach out to Customs and Border Protection officials to determine the agency’s ultimate plan for clearing pilots into the United States; however, customs officials have not released any plans.
Meanwhile, pilots should plan for delays when clearing customs and try to remain patient. Pilots who exit their aircraft before being met by a customs official could be hit with a violation.
Advocacy and Legislation,
Pilot Safety and Skills,
A House bill that would force FAA to go through the rulemaking process before imposing new policies for sleep disorders has passed a key committee.
The House has passed a bill requiring the TSA to consult stakeholders, including general aviation representatives, before making major changes to security policy.
Senators are demanding a written response from the Department of Homeland Security about unwarranted stops of general aviation aircraft by DHS and Customs and Border Protection.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.