Win for GA: Customs Ends Intercept Program

After outcry, controversial program is shut down.

CBP UH-60

CBP UH-60

** Photo by Gerald L Nino via CBP**Gerald L Nino via CBP

Less than a month after the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the agency would review its policy of stopping and searching general aviation aircraft without evidence of wrongdoing, a CBP spokesman has publicly stated that the controversial program is being altered "so as not to needlessly affront law-abiding pilots."

Flying and other news outlets first began reporting on the story nearly a year ago, leading to an outcry among pilots over the policy. AOPA led the lobbying effort pressuring the CBP to end its policy of targeting GA aircraft for searches after more than 50 reports by members who were stopped and questioned by law enforcement.

U.S. Customs agents apparently were hoping to score drug arrests by searching airplanes that had flown east from California or made long flights. There is no indication that any CBP stop of a GA airplane under the program ever resulted in an arrest.

According to an NPR story, CBP has taken new steps to foster better relations with the general aviation community and will no longer target GA aircraft unless there is clear evidence of illegal activity.

AOPA president Mark Baker met with CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske early this month to urge him to rethink the intercept program. Baker received assurances at that meeting that the policy would change soon.

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