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Congressman goes to bat for GA on customs ruleCongressman goes to bat for GA on customs rule

Congressman goes to bat for GA on customs rule

By AOPA ePublishing staff

General aviation pilots who fly internationally have a sympathetic ear on Capitol Hill.

AOPA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Andy Cebula and AOPA member Jim Turner met with Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) on Feb. 26 to discuss the proposed changes in procedures for GA aircraft flying to and from the United States.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) wants to require pilots to submit arrival/departure notification and passenger lists electronically before leaving or returning to the United States. This would be done through CBP’s electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS), which is already used by charter companies to screen GA passengers against terrorist watch lists.

Rep. Broun, who is a pilot and AOPA member, agreed that the proposed rule could have harmful effects on international GA flights. In particular, he emphasized that the requirement for pilots to electronically submit information via an Internet-based system is simply unworkable. Pilots often don’t have universal Internet access inside the United States, much less from a Baja airstrip, Bahamian Cay, or Canadian lake. Read Broun’s follow-up letter to the CBP.

And, as AOPA has maintained, it’s impractical to require pilots to land at another airport with Internet access before crossing the border just to be able to file an arrival notification and passenger list. AOPA, instead, is seeking common sense alternatives.

The congressman and his staff have been working to facilitate meetings with CBP regarding the proposed rule.

“Having been a pilot for years who has flown internationally several times, Rep. Broun was an expert on this issue before we even set foot in his office. We had a productive discussion on the proposed rule and how it could impact GA pilots,” Cebula said.

Turner, meanwhile, of Augusta, Ga., is an instrument-rated pilot who also flies internationally. As co-chairman of a flying club called Georgia Flyers and as an active volunteer for Angel Flight, Turner agreed that the proposed rule needs attention.

“I have been flying to the Bahamas every year for the past 10 years, and I know that there isn’t much in terms of phone service, much less access to the Internet, so I don’t know how pilots like me could comply with this proposed rule,” Turner said.

February 28, 2008

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