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New rules in works for GA pilots flying internationally

Planning to fly internationally? If U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has its way, you'll have to electronically submit a passenger manifest at least 60 minutes prior to leaving or entering the United States. Yes, this applies to short trips across the border with your family or friends in your Cessna 172.

The CBP's proposed rule released on September 11 is based on concerns of executives from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that the passengers on private aircraft should be checked against terrorist watch lists before exiting or arriving the United States.

Currently, GA pilots entering the United States give Customs 60 minutes notice by phone. Upon landing, pilots provide passenger information during a face-to-face meeting with Customs officials.

"The idea of moving the reporting requirement for general aviation flight to pre-departure rather than upon arrival was included in the recently enacted 9/11 Commission law," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. "AOPA is opposing making electronic filing the only means for submitting this information. We will send comments against the proposal to Customs."

CBP would require GA pilots to file a passenger manifest and other information via its electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS). (Pilots operating charter and commercial flights already have been required to submit this information through eAPIS.)

"GA pilots must be able to file their passenger manifest in other ways in addition to eAPIS," said Cebula. "CBP is not providing a realistic alternative for GA pilots who can take off from remote areas that might not have Internet access.

"The CBP simply plans to require pilots leaving these remote areas to land at another airport with Internet service and complete the information before entering or leaving the United States. That's not practical."

There are also questions about the requirement to submit a passenger manifest and other data before leaving the United States. Currently, pilots leaving the United States are not required to submit any information to CBP.

The passenger manifest would be checked against a no-fly list, but the proposal does not address how passengers whose names match that of someone on the list will be handled.

September 11, 2007

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