Serious problems with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) proposal on international general aviation travel prompted the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) this week to ask the agency to extend the public comment period.
In a letter to CBP's assistant commissioner for international trade regulations and rulings, the head of AOPA's government affairs division asked that the comment period be extended from 60 to 120 days. "A two month extension is essential to ensure that the general aviation (GA) community, which will be significantly impacted by this rule, has an adequate opportunity to comment," wrote Andy Cebula, AOPA's executive vice president of government affairs.
AOPA also noted the wide diversity of international GA flights and the need for more time to better educate GA pilots about the issues surrounding their particular type of international flight - whether a family trip to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean, or a transoceanic flight in a corporate jet.
The CBP proposed rule would require all GA pilots flying out of or into the United States to electronically file a passenger manifest with CBP at least one hour before taking off, and that the manifest be checked against terrorist watch lists. AOPA believes the rule, which would not permit manifests to be submitted any way except online, creates major obstacles for pilots departing remote airfields with limited telephone service, let alone Internet connectivity. Similarly, false hits against the terrorist watch lists would present significant challenges for pilots trying to resolve the problem from remote areas.
"[E]xtending the comment period is essential to provide the general aviation community the opportunity to develop possible alternatives to address specific concerns within the rule such as the proposed electronic-only submission of passenger and other data to CBP prior to border crossing flights," said Cebula in the letter.
The more than 413,000 members of AOPA make up the world's largest civil aviation association. AOPA is committed to striking a common-sense balance that fulfills national security needs while protecting aircraft owners and pilots from overly burdensome regulations.
October 12, 2007