After AOPA raised questions about the intent of a new waiver requirement for aircraft on cross-border VFR flights to or from Canada, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on Monday made it clear that the requirement only applies to non-transponder-equipped aircraft.
On September 11, 2001, when the FAA shut down the national airspace, the nation's borders were closed to international air traffic. Soon after, they were reopened to IFR flights and eventually to transponder-equipped VFR flights. To make it possible for aircraft not equipped with transponders to fly between the United States and Canada, the FAA issued a blanket waiver that has been in effect ever since. Pilots merely needed to note on their flight plan that they were operating under that blanket waiver.
Effective June 15, 2003, the blanket waiver is being eliminated. Individual pilots will need a specific waiver for their aircraft after that date.
But the confusion over who would be affected began on Friday, when the FAA published two vaguely worded notams announcing the change. The notams could be interpreted to mean that all VFR pilots would be required to apply for waivers for VFR cross-border flights, not just the non-transponder-equipped aircraft that currently operate under the blanket waiver. AOPA sought clarification and was told that the requirement would apply to all VFR aircraft.
"VFR aircraft crossing the border are required to be on a flight plan and must go through Customs and Immigration, and AOPA saw no justification for imposing another layer of bureaucracy with a waiver requirement," said AOPA Vice President of Airspace, Regulatory, and Certification Policy Melissa Bailey.
On Monday, TSA told AOPA that it only intends to implement the individual waiver requirement, effective June 15, on non-transponder-equipped aircraft. All other VFR aircraft will be permitted to operate without the waiver.
"We are glad that TSA is limiting the scope of the requirement, and we have asked that the FAA and TSA rewrite the notams so that they clearly reflect the new rules," said Bailey.