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Why Are Federal Agents Stopping GA Pilots?

Still waiting on answers about aircraft searches

June 20, 2013 - The general aviation community is still waiting for answers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) about the growing number of reports of law-abiding GA pilots being stopped and having their aircraft searched.

EAA is supporting AOPA's efforts to find out more about these searches by armed federal agents. CBP has not responded to numerous Freedom of Information Act requests regarding these stops and searches. In nearly all cases, no reasons have been given for the stops, many of which have taken place well within U.S. borders.

"This practice is wrong on so many levels and only builds more mistrust between the pilot community and federal authorities," said Sean Elliott, EAA's vice president of advocacy and safety. "If there is a legitimate reason for these searches of aircraft and the questioning of law-abiding pilots, Homeland Security should not need months to respond to inquiries about the practice. Such delays only arouse additional suspicion."

Pilots who are stopped and targeted for search, but not charged, may never have an opportunity to challenge a potential violation of their constitutional rights as there is never a trial or court action. Civil action in many cases is cost-prohibitive.

As the demand continues for answers, including a possible inquiry through Congress, AOPA has compiled a step-by-step guide for pilots if they are stopped and have their aircraft searched. EAA recommends that pilots keep this guide for the time being, while the GA community continues to demand answers regarding the CBP practice.

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