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CBP Officials Take Part in Roundtable With Business Aviation About GA Concerns
September 17, 2012
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials and a cross-section of South Florida’s general aviation community came together for candid discussions last week that demonstrated a readiness to work collaboratively to resolve operator concerns involving international GA flights at the regional and national levels.
“We have the CBP’s general aviation brain trust here today,” said Doug Carr, NBAA Vice President of Safety, Security & Operations. “The purpose of this event is to exchange viewpoints and give the CBP the information it needs to actively be more forward in addressing our concerns.”
In a demonstration of a new level of transparency, CBP’s GA Program Manager, Eric Rodriguez, described improvements the agency is making with business aviation operators and South Florida port representatives, and listened as representatives from the industry discussed their concerns.
The roundtable, held September 13 at Kendall-Tamiami Airport in Miami, was hosted by the NBAA, along with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and the National Air Transportation Association (NATA).
Rodriguez walked the audience through a topline review of CBP rules and regulations for general aviation, reinforcing that the CBP’s “policies are reasonable and responsible.” He noted that most regulations were originally written many years ago for commercial aircraft, and that aligning these rules with the needs of business aviation operations has proved to be challenging.
Unlike scheduled airlines, business aviation operations require more flexibility for changes to schedules and manifests to meet the fast-paced demands of global business.
Critical topics covered in the background-only session included CBP’s requirements on notice of arrival procedures, the differences in processing and the other operational procedures at CBP installations at different airports around the country.
The Advanced Passenger Information System, or APIS, was a subject of much discussion, with participants asking CBP how best to secure landing rights without unnecessary delays, how to avoid the hassle of filing duplicate paperwork, and what changes might be in the works concerning designated airports and overflight exemptions.
This trio of topics is especially pertinent for South Florida, which occupies a unique position geographically in the United States as the crossroads for substantial border traffic from the Caribbean, Latin America and Europe. In fact, according to CBP data, South Florida airports clear approximately 25 percent of all international GA flights arriving in the U.S.. When charter business is added in, the percentage can climb as high as 50 percent of all GA traffic entering the U.S. South Florida’s substantial volume of traffic requiring U.S. clearance in a relatively small geographic area surfaces the most issues.
CBP officials assured the audience that the agency is working intently with GA to remove barriers. A number of CBP accomplishments in Florida were listed, including the observation that the procedures being put into place in the Sunshine State will be the model for how CBP should work across the rest of the country.
For example, CBP officials indicated that, while existing requirements remain in effect for landing at designated airports when GA operators arrive from the South, CBP’s Miami field office has adjusted overflight exemptions in a reasonable and responsible manner to allow operators, on a case-by-case basis, to bypass the first airport in the region and use a second approved airport instead, thereby reducing potential delays, and cutting down on paperwork and confusion. CBP is continuing to work with NBAA's Security Council on the overflight exemption process and anticipates further positive changes to these procedures.
CBP officials made it clear the agency intends to be transparent and to engage collaboratively with GA organizations like NBAA, AOPA and NATA to address their Members’ concerns. Agency representatives said discussions of issues on a regional basis like the Miami roundtable provides valuable insights into the toughest issues, and surfaces ideas that can lead to improvements in procedures. The aim, the audience was told, is to build productive relationships with a “we are here to help” mindset.
Overall, attendees made comments such as, “This is the best meeting I’ve been to in 50 years of aviation,” and, “It’s great to discuss these issues.”
“To have this many Customs people focused on resolving consistency issues for us is a huge step forward,” Carr noted. “Today’s insights portend a brighter future for all of us.”