U.S. Customs Tuning in to Business Aviation
August 18, 2015
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  • The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is turning its attention to business and general aviation with plans to establish a working group that will delve into various industry issues. CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske announced the plans for the working group during a recent meeting with NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen.

    While details weren’t revealed, Doug Carr, vice president of regulatory and international affairs for NBAA, said the group will likely be similar to advisory groups CBP created for air transport and cargo.

    To begin meeting later this year, the group will provide a venue to raise the visibility about concerns specific to business and general aviation, Carr said. From a business aviation standpoint, a number of Customs issues have centered on processes that were established for airline operations, but are not as appropriate for business aviation. The group will provide an opportunity to educate and heighten awareness about the unique requirements of business aviation, Carr said.

    As important, he added, the effort would enable the industry to work more collaboratively with Customs. Bolen said that during his meeting with Kerlikowske, they “also identified further opportunities for collaboration, with a goal of simplifying business aviation procedures while maintaining an equivalent level of safety and security.”


    CBP has worked with the business aviation community on several issues in recent years, such as improving the processes for the Southern Border Overflight Exemption and pre-clearance restrictions in Shannon, Ireland. More recently, Customs has teamed with the industry to re-establish a presence at Van Nuys, Calif., following a nearly decade-long absence, and to open a new facility in Columbus, Ohio.

    But Carr notes several issues remain regarding entry into the U.S., from availability at locations and hours at Customs service to Global Entry requirements that funnel business aircraft passengers into the commercial terminals.

    The new working group is expected to focus on expediting business and general aviation arrivals into the U.S., NBAA said, adding it is pushing for improved facilitation of N-registered aircraft returning to the U.S. and streamlined processing requirements for international arrivals.

    The business aviation community is continuing to work with Customs to establish bases at new locations or to return to former locations, Carr noted. Carr pointed to Van Nuys, noting it is “huge” for general aviation in that area. But Customs formerly was located at several of the airports in the region frequented by business aviation and pulled out about a decade ago.

    To attract a Customs presence, FBOs have been investing in and building the facilities to Customs’ standards. But Carr notes that the requirements for Customs facilities are designed for processing passengers arriving at airline terminals rather than business aviation terminals, standards that create a challenge for the FBOs.

    In addition, attracting such a presence requires Customs resources, which means investment on the government’s end. Carr acknowledged that this can be an obstacle. But he also noted that Customs is one of the government’s top revenue raisers.

    Negotiations are under way at several more locations, Carr said, noting the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the U.S. are among the general areas that have business aviation communities seeking greater access to Customs. “There are communities we hear from regularly” seeking expanded Customs, he said. “There are some hot spots.”

    Beyond securing new Customs facilities, NBAA also is hoping for improved accessibility at existing facilities. Some have limited hours, which make nighttime arrivals difficult. NBAA believes one way to take the pressure off U.S. arrivals is to expand the CBP presence at foreign pre-clearance facilities before U.S. operators return home.

    Global Entry is another program that Carr said could be tailored better for business aviation use. A number of locations do not have access to Global Entry or must channel through the commercial terminals.

    “General aviation gets introduced into an airline system that really isn’t designed to do what business aviation needs it to do,” Carr said.

    That concern is thematic with a number of Customs programs, including the eApis, or electronic advance passenger information system. Carr noted the business aviation community has a high rate of compliance, but the format is still designed for airline use.

    Another target area is Southern Border Crossing Exemption requirements, he said. “We’ve seen a great improvement in Southern border overflights,” he said. Customs in 2013 expanded the accessibility for the exemption permitting aircraft without a passenger aboard to bypass designated portal airports before entering the U.S. But the association believes the process can still be improved for business aircraft, Carr said.