11:43 PM

Wrong Fix to a
Big Problem

AOPA.org is reporting that if you're a GA pilot who likes to chase your hamburgers outside the borders of the lower 48, there are some important rule changes you need to know:

If U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has its way, you'll have to electronically submit a passenger manifest at least 60 minutes prior to leaving or entering the United States. Yes, this applies to short trips across the border with your family or friends in your Cessna 172. The CBP's proposed rule released on September 11 is based on concerns of executives from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that the passengers on private aircraft should be checked against terrorist watch lists before exiting or arriving the United States. Currently, GA pilots entering the United States give Customs 60 minutes notice by phone. Upon landing, pilots provide passenger information during a face-to-face meeting with Customs officials.
O.K., I am all for increased border security, since we have such a lack of it right now. The border between Mexico and the U.S. is a joke, and the millions of illegals who have strolled untouched into this country demonstrates that DHS cannot honestly say for sure who is crossing that border.

So an increase in security aimed at GA planes sure seems like straws being grasped. The fact that DHS revealed this rule change on September 11th clearly shows they wanted this story to gain generous traction fast. Tightening the grip on GA does nothing to close the wide gaps in the imaginary fence where Texas, Arizona and California meet Mexico. But to John Q. Public, this does look like DHS is actually doing something to protect our borders, even if it is more hat then cattle.

The one part of this plan that has AOPA [and me] shaking our heads is this:
CBP would require GA pilots to file a passenger manifest and other information via its electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS). "The CBP simply plans to require pilots leaving these remote areas to land at another airport with Internet service and complete the information before entering or leaving the United States," said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs, "and that's not practical."
So let's see if we can connect the dots here. Before you depart any of the tiny GA aeroportos in northern Mexico, you first have to find Internet access. Uh huh. If you've ever been into any of the Mexican strips on Baja Sur such as Bahia de Los Angeles, finding a Starbucks with a wi-fi hotspot is not only impractical, it's impossible.

AOPA also raises questions about the requirement to submit a passenger manifest and other data before leaving the United States. Currently, pilots leaving the United States are not required to submit any information to CBP. The passenger manifest would be checked against a no-fly list, but the proposal does not address how passengers whose names match that of someone on the list will be handled.

So I guess making private air travel "safer" for a few GA flights a day is much better then plugging those Titanic-sized holes in our southern border.

The entire rule can be downloaded as a PDF here.

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