GA requests more time for comments on customs rule

 - October 31, 2007, 11:34 AM

While AOPA seeks an extension on the comment period for new security rules for private aircraft arriving and departing the U.S., NBAA released the “U.S. Customs and Border Protection Guide for Private Flyers” on its member Web site.

AOPA asked Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to extend the comment period for its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) titled “Advance Information on Private Aircraft Arriving and Departing the United States” from its original 60-day period (closing November 19) to 120 days (closing January 18).

According to AOPA, a two-month extension is essential to ensure that the general aviation community, which will be significantly affected by this rule, has an adequate opportunity to comment.

The rule would require more detailed information about arriving and departing private aircraft and the people on board within a time frame necessary to assess the risks that such flights could pose to national security. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told Congress in September that the proposal would bring private aircraft into closer alignment with the passenger screening requirements that currently apply to airlines.

In a letter to CBP, AOPA said the “uniquely diverse nature of the general aviation industry, the logistical challenges of notifying and educating general pilots and the need for more time to study to suggest practical alternatives all support the need for a modest two-month extension to comment.”

NBAA said it and members of its International Operators Committee have been working with CBP over the past year to update the CBP Private Flyers Guide. The revised guide now includes applicable current CBP policies, regulations, documentary requirements and ports of entry for non-airline operations. In addition, it contains extensive links from its index to various sections within the document, sample forms and Internet links.

The guide is written for private and corporate pilots who are traveling to or from foreign countries. It sets forth basic CBP requirements and provides information about airports where international arrivals are processed by CBP.

The NPRM expands existing regulations and will require pilots of private aircraft to provide to the U.S. government electronic manifest data for all on board one hour before departure to and from the U.S. by filing manifest data via the CBP’s electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS) or an approved alternate system. Pilots operating charter and commercial aircraft are already required to submit this information through eAPIS.

Chertoff said the proposed regulation would allow inspectors more time to screen travelers and crews and take necessary actions to resolve threats, whether that means denying the airplane entry into U.S. airspace, rerouting an aircraft or meeting it upon arrival.

In its letter to CBP, AOPA noted that GA is a diverse industry with widely varying operations and, unlike the airlines, has limited access to resources and support facilities when traveling internationally.

“International general aviation flights range from recreational pilots flying family and friends across the border for short vacations to corporate aircraft traveling on business flights,” AOPA wrote. “This wide diversity presents unique challenges to the general aviation industry in alerting and educating those who will be most impacted by the proposed changes.”