The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is bringing together U.S. and Canadian officials in an effort to make crossing the border a simpler, less cumbersome and more manageable experience for general aviation pilots and passengers.
At an Oct. 2 meeting hosted by AOPA in Washington, D.C., U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) leaders met with their counterparts from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to discuss ways to ease GA border crossings without compromising security.
“As things stand today, using GA to cross into and out of the United States can be a frustrating and needlessly difficult experience,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of operations and international affairs. “That’s why we wanted to bring U.S. and Canadian officials together with GA users, so we can begin to solve many of the problems that plague the system today. We want to see a streamlined process, consistent procedures at all entry airports, and an all-around better experience for international travelers.”
For this month’s ‘cross-border summit,’ AOPA brought together border protection agency officials from the United States and Canada, as well as stakeholders from the aviation community. The gathering was the first step in a longer-term collaboration. Officials from Mexico were also invited to participate, AOPA officials noted.
Canada is in the process of developing an electronic version of its Interactive Advance Passenger Information system, similar to the eAPIS (electronic Advance Passenger Information System) that has been used by GA in the United States since 2008.
At the meeting, CBP officials offered to share their insights and experiences in establishing eAPIS in order to help CBSA leaders avoid some of the pitfalls and challenges encountered in the development and implementation of that system.
CBP officials said they will continue working on needed improvements to the eAPIS system, including adding electronic submission options, such as the ability to cancel a manifest, as well as providing more services for mobile devices and increasing the use of plane-side processing for “trusted travelers.” The agency also said it will work on needed updates to GA operator guidelines and regulations, some of which are unchanged since the 1970s.
Both countries have committed to moving toward a risk-based framework for managing border crossings and are looking at how they can work together to ensure a smooth handoff for international travelers.
“This kind of industry-government cooperation is a good way to make sure stakeholder needs are considered at every step along the way and that the governments involved have the opportunity to learn from one another’s experiences,” said Spence. “We hope this event will serve as a model for ongoing discussions with other nations, including Mexico and the Bahamas.
“The economic consequences of impeding international travel are too high. We clearly need some commonsense solutions to the current process, and we will continue to work toward that end,” Spence concluded.
In addition to AOPA, CBP, and CBSA, the meeting included representatives from the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, National Air Transportation Association, and National Business Aviation Association.