AOPA told the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that “general aviation pilots and their aircraft continue to be subjected to what appear to be random searches, while federal officials have failed to respond to a four-month-old AOPA public records request for information about the searches.”
In a letter sent on Wednesday to acting CBP Commissioner Thomas Winkowski, AOPA general counsel Ken Mead stated that AOPA has been contacted by nearly a dozen members who have been “detained for hours while their documentation, belongings and aircraft” were searched. Those searches took place, Mead noted, “even though these flights originated and ended well within the borders of the U.S. We cannot identify what authority is granted [CBP] to monitor general aviation activity within the borders of the U.S., and we question the authority under which CBP is conducting this monitoring, stop and search activity.”
AOPA also distributed a checklist offering guidance for pilots if they are stopped by law enforcement and a search is requested. It includes a list of questions to ask law enforcement personnel and also the regulations regarding searches. AOPA members have reported that their aircraft were searched without warrants by CBP agents, who sometimes acted with local law enforcement. None of the cases has resulted in arrests or the confiscation of contraband, AOPA said.