SECURITY SPOTLIGHT

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Be Advised of Pending Customs Requirements for Border Crossings

Since last year, the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been in the process of finalizing a rule that would require the pilot of any business aircraft arriving in or departing from the United States to electronically transmit to CBP information regarding each individual traveling onboard the aircraft.

Operators of the aircraft would provide electronic manifest data via the Electronic Advanced Passenger Information System (eAPIS), currently used by commercial operators, or through other approved electronic methods. Aircraft arriving from outside the U.S. currently must provide approximately 10 pieces of passenger information. The new proposal would require more than three times that amount – 34 pieces of information, including aircraft owner and operator information, submitted electronically for aircraft entering or exiting the U.S. The compiled data would need to be submitted to CBP no later than 60 minutes prior to the start of the flight. Operators who could not meet Internet submission reporting requirements from the departure airport would be directed to land at another airport with Internet access prior to arriving in the U.S.

eAPIS Timeline

  • CBP Rule Proposed:
    September 18, 2007

  • Original Comment Deadline:
    November 19, 2007

  • Extended Comment Deadline:
    December 4, 2007

  • NBAA Submits Comments on
    Rule: December 4, 2007

  • Final Rule Expected:
    Second half of 2008

NBAA’s View

NBAA has numerous reservations about the proposed eAPIS rule. “The Association has significant safety concerns about adding another takeoff and landing simply to satisfy paperwork requirements,” said Doug Carr, NBAA vice president, safety, security & regulation. “Our recommendations are not only to provide additional methods for communication – such as by phone or some other method that doesn’t tie people to an active Internet connection – but also to address the one-hour time requirement. As long as the operator has the approval prior to departure, it should not matter when the submission takes place,” Carr maintained.

NBAA also has taken issue with the practicality of several aspects of the proposed rule. For example, the proposed eAPIS rule would require operators to include the transponder code for a flight as part of the information that would be submitted at least an hour before the flight. That would be difficult to do, since transponder codes usually are not assigned until right before departure.

CBP officials say that approval of electronically submitted manifest data could be done in seconds, but NBAA believes it actually could take as much as five or 10 minutes until the bugs are worked out of the system, which uses computer algorithms to scan a series of databases to do the necessary security checks.

“While the general aviation community supports security enhancements, NBAA is troubled by the potential impact of this proposal, especially on small businesses,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “We have and will continue to convey this concern to the agency.”

Next Steps

By the time the formal comment period for the proposed rule closed late last year, CBP had received more than 3,000 comments on the eAPIS proposal, many from operators who suggested that the proposal was impractical and would impose a significant burden on their operation.

Carr said that NBAA expects a final eAPIS rule from CBP during the second half of this year, but he added that CBP officials have indicated that this is just Phase 1 of a multiphase approach to securing U.S. borders, so additional rules may be forthcoming.