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Expanded customs hours for pilots entering Alaska at Alcan

For those who have made the intrepid trek from the lower 48 to the last frontier of Alaska in a small aircraft, the number of logistical challenges can be daunting. From having to track the weather days in advance to planning for extended overflight of remote and sometimes overwater areas, there is a lot to think about. And then there is U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to deal with—but things are about to get a bit easier on that front.

Photo by Chris Rose.

For many operating general aviation aircraft taking the Alcan Highway route to Alaska, a final fuel stop in Canada is required—frequently at someplace like Whitehorse/Erik Nielsen International Airport (CYXY) in White Horse, Yukon. From there, pilots usually make their way to either Fairbanks or Anchorage, if they have the range, or land shortly after crossing the border into Alaska at Northway Airport (PAOR). CBP has long provided screening services at PAOR, but the available hours were recently restricted, requiring pilots to arrive promptly at 9 a.m. or 3 p.m, not all that favorable to GA pilots. Pilots have had to leave CYXY very early in the morning and potentially make tough safety decisions involving weather and other factors to meet the available screening times.

AOPA, alongside the Alaska Airmen’s Association, has worked with CBP to expand the hours of service at PAOR. After some coordination, a new and larger service window is now offered on a trial basis. If successful, the new hours expected to be made permanent.

This season, CBP is offering screening services at PAOR during a four-hour window between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., giving pilots a broader time frame and offering more flexibility with their entry into Alaska. During that time, CBP personnel are available to be dispatched from their Alcan facility, which is about an hour’s drive away. There are, however, several things that pilots need to make note of:

  1. Pilots will need to make the usual cross-border arrangements, including an Electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS) filing and a call in advance to the Alcan Port of Entry to secure permission to land at PAOR. Pilots are asked to call between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Alaska time to schedule same-day arrival. Remember, both an eAPIS confirmation and a phone call to secure permission to land are required.
  2. In addition, CBP needs to minimize staff time away from the Alcan port by grouping arrivals, so pilots may be asked to adjust their arrival time to coincide with other arrivals.

Details and contact information for the Alcan station may be found on the CBP website.

Even with these stipulations, this expanded service window is a dramatic improvement over what pilots have been offered for the past several years.

“AOPA is pleased to see CBP’s willingness to recognize the issues facing GA pilots making this cross-border journey and welcome these changes as a huge benefit to our members,” said Jim McClay, AOPA director of airspace, air traffic, and security.

Jim McClay.
Jim McClay
Director of Airspace, Air Traffic, and Security
Jim McClay joined the AOPA government affairs team having worked for 13 years in the FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center. He is an instrument-rated private pilot whose expertise spans a variety of topics including national airspace system operations and emerging technologies.
Topics: Advocacy, Security

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