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EAA Not Alone in Opposing DHS Restrictions on GA

Public comment period extended to December 4

November 13, 2007 — More than 2,000 comments have been submitted to the U.S Customs and Border Protection Agency regarding proposed requirements for international general aviation flights, with nearly unanimous opposition. EAA continues its opposition to the proposals as well, maintaining the requirements are impractical and add bureaucratic burdens.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has extended the deadline for the public to submit comments on their proposed rule requiring all general aviation pilots to file, via the internet, pilot and passenger personal information at least one hour prior to crossing the border. That deadline is now December 4, 2007.

The proposed rule Advance Information on Private Aircraft Arriving and Departing the United States (Docket USCBP-2007-0064) is attempting to mandate reporting requirements that would be impossible for U.S. Citizens to meet - primarily because most foreign general aviation landing facilities DO NOT have internet, or cell, or regular phone line capabilities.

More than 2,000 public comments have been submitted thus far, and EAA's review of them could not uncover a single one in favor of this administrative burden being placed directly on the shoulders of general aviation. Among the public comments sent thus far:

  • "It is estimated that there were 138,000 general aviation flights to/from Mexico in 2007. Assuming there are three people per flight, USCBP would have to successfully (no errors) complete 831,354 background checks per year or 2,335 checks every day. If this rule is implemented, it would be impossible for the USCBP to even start background checks - much less get them right 100% of the time, and get them completed on time 100% of the time."
  • "Private pilots are already required to give a 1 hour notice of where and when they are going to arrive. All passengers and crew are required to present passports for identification. Adding this additional level of security will not help national security, it just burdens law abiding US citizens."
  • "How will we be able to provide USCBP with a transponder code 1 hour before takeoff? When you can't even get one in Mexico or Canada until just minutes prior to takeoff?"
  • "I also disagree with your financial analysis of the costs involved with complying with these requirements. I must pay an additional amount for Internet access in a foreign country and I must pay additional costs for even talking on the radio (Canada). Both of which will add financial costs that you don't mention."
  • "Why are private aircraft treated different from cars, truck, and boats? Why are same rules not applied to them? If the 1 hour internet access is so critical to national security, then every type of transportation should be mandated to comply with the 1 hour notification requirement - aircraft, boats, cars, trains, bicycles, etc."

Doug Macnair, EAA's vice president of government affairs, reiterated the reasons such a change would not enhance security and would add difficult burdens for GA pilots.

"The procedures for private aircraft and their pilots as outlined in this proposal do not in any way account for the actual operational environment encountered when personal use aircraft are used for the conduct of international flights," he said. "Personal general aviation border crossing flights to/from Mexico and Canada operate at remote and often unimproved landing facilities, such as grass strips and lakes, without reliable telephone or cellular coverage.

"The requirement for electronic data submissions of arrival and departure notifications and manifests completely ignores the practical reality of international flight in general aviation aircraft. The idea that submissions must be made and approvals returned via electronic data means is completely out of the question."

EAA encourages GA pilots to join in opposition to these proposals. Comments can be sent electronically by visiting www.regulations.gov, then selecting Department of Homeland Security, Proposed Rules, and enter docket number: "USCBP 2007-0064" in the dropdown menus.

For submissions via U.S. Mail:
Border Security Regulations Branch, Office of International Trade
U.S Customs and Border Protection
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, (Mint Annex)
Washington, DC 20229

The DHS has also provided several FAQs on the proposal on its website.

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