As the U.S. moves to expand its Customs preclearance options in Canada beyond commercial airlines to other modes of transportation, industry officials are hoping to work with government leaders on extending those services to business aviation. The U.S. recently announced that it planned to build on an existing agreement with Canada “to, for the first time, conduct full preclearance in the rail, ferry, and cruise ship environments.”
However, business aviation is not yet part of those plans. NBAA has been working with industry leaders in Canada, as well as with airport and government officials and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on possibilities for business aviation. At least one large airport in Canada has expressed interest in participating, said NBAA v-p of regulatory and international affairs Doug Carr, although no timeline has been set for a pilot project. Conversations are ongoing, he added.
“The reality is that it's harder than just one simple agreement,” Carr said. “A question that has to be answered…[is] can an armed officer of the U.S. be granted authority to conduct work on non-U.S. parts of the airport? It's not a simple answer.”
Issues such as the layout of the airport and where CBP can be present need to be ironed out. “It’s really difficult because of these jurisdictional boundaries that have to be crossed delicately and effectively,” he added.
CBP does provide preclearance in two locations for business aviation: in Aruba and Shannon, Ireland. While Aruba is not as frequently used, Shannon has become a success story, Carr said.
Shannon in early August celebrated its 10th anniversary of housing the services; on Aug. 4, 2009, it became the first airport in Europe and the Middle East to offer U.S. preclearance. Initially, the services were offered for commercial passengers, but in 2010 that was extended to business aviation.
Mary Considine, acting CEO of Shannon Group, welcomed the milestone, saying the airport was “delighted to be celebrating this anniversary with our colleagues in U.S. Customs and Border Protection [CBP]. Over the years we have worked closely with our colleagues in CBP and the NBAA on process improvements and operational efficiencies.”
Those services were an outgrowth of a desire of the CBP at the time to ensure access to the U.S. by expanding the borders. Shannon was long a popular destination for fueling, particularly as a last stop before entering the U.S. Unlike some of the issues encountered in Canada, Shannon’s airport layout, with a centralized approach, helped enable bringing the services to the Irish destination.
It started slowly for business aviation, but “these days, the preclearance program in Shannon is nearly the perfect solution for operators returning to the U.S.,” Carr said. In fact, CBP, working in concert with Shannon Airport, in June began provided an after-hours extension until 9 p.m. local time. “It provides operators a full day of business in Europe before the need to head home,” Carr said.
Next on the plate at Shannon is a fully compliant catering program that eliminates the need to manage international garbage, Carr added. Currently, aircraft need to land at a facility that has an approved international garbage-handling program. There are only a couple hundred such facilities out of the thousands of airports that business aircraft might otherwise be able to access in the U.S., he said, adding, “It limits the number of options you have available to you.”
Carr is hopeful that this program might receive final approval later this year. With such a program, he added, “An operator can get catering from Shannon, fly directly to any airport in the U.S., and park in their hangars just like with a domestic flight.”
Both the CBP and Shannon have been strongly supportive of these efforts. Carr is hoping that the successes in Shannon might serve as a template to bring preclearance to other locations, not only in Canada, but also in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere.
Shannon officials “have really taken the lead in helping to bring value to that capability for our segment. Shannon has shown to be effective and used,” he said. “There's a value in us looking at the broader benefit of what U.S. investment in this capability means.”
Business aviation officials are hopeful that the lessons there will eventually resonate in Canada. “I think it's pretty clear that should preclearance for business aviation Canada become a reality, it would be used a lot and would address some of the challenges we have domestically here with the drawing down service.”
But this is an educational process, he added, “We've got to find a way for that dialog to take place with local jurisdictions. I'm sure weighing heavily is their comfort of having [armed] foreigners on their soil in places that they've never been allowed before.”