In case you have not been subject to the new Homeland Security regulations that will affect flights across US borders, beware, writes Bill Allen, who also tells General Aviation News that he has “found a possible ear in Homeland Security in Eric.firstname.lastname@example.org. I would ask that you send him your comments if you agree with what I have experienced or are aware of the new regulations that will affect you beginning in May of this year.”
After using APIS for several trips, Allen wrote to Rodrigez saying, “You may not like what I have to say about this, but I speak for a lot pilots using this as well as for some Flight Service personnel who have expressed their disdain for APIS. My comments are also directed at the fiscal irresponsibility of government agencies wasting tax payers’ money and DHS skills that should concentrate on serious threats that are present elsewhere.”
What follows is a transcript of Allen’s letter:
First, every time we cross the border in our airplane N59105, we first must file a flight plan with Flight Service. Filing a flight plan requires us to provide the airplane information, pilot information, emergency contact, number of passengers and nationality, our route of flight, including departing airport and returning airport of entry. We give times of departure and return as well as location of crossing the border.
Then, when we open the flight plan, Flight Service knows the time we took off and where we are located in flight. On the return we contact them by aircraft radio and update our estimated time of arrival at the return Port of Entry. In return, they update our arrival with Customs and give us a squawk code for our transponder. When we land, customs has all the information in their computer, including our current customs decal number, and they check us out, including passengers and aircraft. Customs also requires us to show them our current pilot’s license, medical certificate, bi-annual flight review, the aircraft registration and airworthiness certificate.
Now, when you geniuses designed APIS, you invented an entirely new program and bureaucracy. WHY? All you had to do was instruct Flight Service to get the following
additional information: The pilot’s license, passport number, birth date and email address. For passengers: birth dates and passport numbers. That is it. You would have all this information available from Flight Service. You could either assign a person at Flight Service to monitor this information and check it, or route it directly to Homeland Security.
If HLS is hell-bent on making sure that pilots have the HLS response via e-mail prior to departure, then HLS can do that, too, because they would have the pilot’s email address to respond to.
Allen the described his first APIS sign-in.
It took me an hour and a half to get it all correct the first time. Then, about the third time that I submitted the information for a flight, I got it all done and then pushed submit and [was] rejected because the system was too busy and said to try again later. Talk about frustration and wasting valuable time, and for what?
If HLS personnel think for one minute that the bad guys are coming over here in private planes, where is the evidence? If they are, do you really think they are going to land at a Port of Entry? The problem is that HLS is targeting United States Citizens who are the real tax-payers in this country. You know that because they are flying their own planes or chartering them, which puts them in the upper tax brackets.
Why doesn’t your agency just stop wasting our time and our tax money and listen to us? If it were not for Jack McCormick of Baja Bush Pilot’s Association, you would be collecting fines from about everyone going to Baja, because there is not sufficient Internet service to allow a pilot to fill out and submit the APIS requirement from Mexico alone. Thanks to Jack, we can at least fill it out for going and returning at the same time. Since HLS didn’t figure this out, it just reinforces our belief that none of you in HLS fly your own airplanes, few of you cross the US borders, and none have been to Baja California.
Besides the above, APIS placed fines in the document which means that one small honest mistake or transposition of a number might generate a $ 10,000 or more fine. Who wants to risk that problem? Now you have eliminated some pilots from even experiencing flying into foreign countries and you are taking away badly needed tourist dollars from those countries as well as good will that is generated by pilot’s and passengers to those countries. Instead, just think of the benefits you could achieve by using our eyes and ears to report back.
In summation, unless you have a good explanation of this new APIS system, I think it is not the best way to go. I am not a trained HLS guy but I have some common sense and I operate an FBO at Gillespie Field. Don’t think for one minute that I don’t have my eyes open at our airport, because I do and so do most of my friends who use the airport. In fact, I asked HLS to visit our operation so that we could understand more of what to look for and also to have them inspect our facility to make sure we were in compliance. No one would come out, even after a direct face to face with an official in San Diego. Your own people did not think it was important enough to inspect our airport.
The other issue that has come up recently is the attempt by HLS to require security clearance badges, at $ 179 each, for anyone who operates on the inside of an airport fence. This will not work at Gillespie, but say it becomes required. Then, if I fly to Palomar Airport for lunch with my wife, our badges from Gillespie would not work and we would have to sit in our plane until some authority…comes over to escort us off the premises. We could not even fuel our airplane or walk over to Flight Service or to the FBO.
What is happening here is that our freedoms are at risk daily in this country. If you want to continue on this path of restriction and constriction, you will have a public revolt on your hands. Keep in mind that our airport has 900 based airplanes and most are mom and pop owned. We also have the largest known airport pilot’s association. Then there are the other, larger, aviation organizations that will oppose these requirements, such as the AOPA, EAA, AAA, etc., that account for hundreds of thousands of General Aviation Pilots.
You just have to listen to us. I believe that you all think the FAA has the answers, but in fact they do not. There are some bright people at FAA but they are bureaucrats and most do not fly or own an airplanes or even walk on airport property so, really, they don’t particularly care what the regulations are because the tougher they are the better for them in their jobs. Try and get a written decision or answer from an FAA person…they will avoid giving one because then they would be responsible for the answer.
Allen conceded: “I have worked you over pretty hard, but these are the facts. You guys have to listen to us and you should by all means take us seriously and use us to help your mission. Each and every one of us pilots worked hard for our license and we demonstrated some brain power and skill to earn that license. Therefore, consider that we have good jobs and pay taxes that pay for HLS. Now also consider that even 50% of us could do your job or any HLS job including running HLS. With this in mind, why would HLS not want us on their team? Just think, with some meetings on airports with pilots who are cleared with security checks, and with some good communications, you just
tripled your HLS force. And, gee, guess what, you don’t have to pay us. Now, that seems smart.”
It is interesting to learn that Willis Allen worked at a gas boy in 1962 and ‘63 at Palomar Airport and Santa Ynez Airport in California, to earn money to pay for flying lessons. He received a student pilot’s license in 1963 and has been an active pilot since that time, flying more than 40 different types of airplanes from a J-3 Cub to an FA-18, including antiques dating to 1929. He is a past president of the International Aerospace Hall of Fame in San Diego, a 28-year board member of the San Diego Air and Space Museum, a
current member of, and past President of, the San Diego Air and Space Museum’s Foundation Board, a current member and past president of the Antique Airplane Association, past president of the Travelair Division of the Staggerwing Museum Foundation in Tullahoma, Tenn., a past member of the Education and Science Committees of the Smithsonian National Board, with total flying hours logged exceeding 5,500.
He has been flying to Baja California and Mexico since the early 1970s. He and his wife own and operate the Allen Airways Flying Museum on Gillespie Field in El Cajon, California and they published a book on early aviation meets that went along with a Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit from their collection called Looping the Loop that opened at the Air and Space Museum on the Washington Mall.
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