Letters to DGAC, DHS, FAA

April 17, 2009

Dear (name withheld
Director, eAPIS)
US Department of Home Land Security
1300 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington, DC, 20229                                

Dear Sir

As a way of introduction, I am president of the Baja Bush Pilots.  We presently have about 4,000 dues paying members who cross the border on a regular basis to Mexico, Central and South America, and the Bahamas.

We were very instrumental in providing public comment when the original USCBP-2007-0064 proposed rule was made available for public comment.  These comments exceeded 4,000 letters of which over half of the responses were from my members.  In addition, I met with DHS in Riverside California twice and Washington DC once regarding this matter.

I talked to you briefly on the phone following my Riverside meeting where you suggested that I contact Eric Rodriguez who works for you and was given the responsibility to implement the rule. 

There is a tremendous amount of public dissatisfaction regarding the new rule requiring all border crossings to receive prior permission via eAPIS.

It is realized that September 11, 2001 had a major impact on our Country’s freedom and security and that there would be changes however, eAPIS for private aircraft will not make a difference in stopping those with a mission to destroy our nation.

However, we understand that this is law and this rule is in the process of being implemented.  I also understand that you as well as Eric are doing what is required by law and are the messenger(s) and not the creators of the rule.

As indicated previously, I have had several meetings with DHS regarding this rule as well as have received an insurmountable amount of input from my members.  Although most do not agree with the need, most understand that we don’t have a choice and must abide by the law.

Our biggest concern is the eAPIS procedure, both in the quality of software and the ability to receive permission to return to the States.  And, to the best of my knowledge, no one has been declined permission to depart or return to the States so we really don’t know what to expect when a person is denied departure or arrival rights.

I met Eric in DC once as well as had several phone and / or email conversations.  He has been very attentive to what I have said but other than one or two items of concern, there has been little change.

May 18th, 2009 is going to be very traumatic to many people.  Many have tried to use eAPIS and have succeeded, many have tried and have not, and many have not even tried.  And all of these people cross the border once, twice, or twelve or more a year.

The Bush Pilots have continually posted on our website and have preached in meetings that all must use and get comfortable with eAPIS prior to the May date so when eAPIS becomes mandatory, all will know and have an understanding of the procedure.

Unfortunately, eAPIS software lacks a lot of user friendliness that would help immensely as well as some of the procedures that are required by eAPIS may or may not work.  

In fact, the product is so unfriendly that I have been approached by no less than six software developers who have written user interfaces to simplify the procedure. They intend to charge anywhere from $60 to $200 per copy.  There is absolutely no reason to have to purchase third party software to be able to use the eAPIS program.

There are many small changes that would make a large improvement however, we realize that time is of the essence and there are many steps involved in writing and testing software especially as this program is part of a very large and secure program. 

I must point out that one of my other businesses is software design, programming, marketing, and support so I understand the challenges of software development and implementation.

I am submitting a small list of items and am herby respectfully requesting that they be taken into consideration for improving eAPIS for private flyers.

I am herby requesting a six-month extension before making eAPIS mandatory so that there is time to research and make changes to the product as well as to better prepare the flying public for eAPIS

The items are as follows:

“That the 24 Hour Emergency Contact Information” data be saved.
In almost every case, the pilot will have the same emergency contact.  DHS’s response when requesting this in the past is that this has to be filled out every time so that DHS is assured that the information is correct.  

“Address While in the United States” data should be saved
This is another data field that should be saved.  In almost every case, the crew is US based and the address is their home, and it remains the same. 

That passenger records be retained (just like the crew data)
I have about five persons who travel with me and very little others.  This is the case with most pilots.  I am hearing that people are doing a work around by making the four or five persons crew, which is saved.  It would be good to set up the Passenger records to save just as the Crew records are saved

Change a hyperlink.
On the Arrival Permission email, you are told to go to www.cbp.gov to get the specific port information.  It would be much better to provide the hyperlink that indicates to go to http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/contacts/ports/, which dumps right into the Port telephone list.

That there is assurance that calls to the port of entry will be answered
There is still a major problem that even if we have the correct telephone number and the port is staffed, the call might not be answered.  This is primarily caused because there might be only one officer at the port and he/she could be on the ramp checking in an aircraft or, having lunch, etc.  And when there is more than one officer at a port, many times both officers will come out to do the inspection which again leaves the phone unanswered.
And if the port is not staffed, the phone will ring with no response.
We have made several suggestions including that all calls be made to a district office which is staffed 24/7 as well as one national number for requesting permission.  We have been told that this was not possible.
Another solution would be to indicate on your website under Port Information that if the phone is not answered at the airport, call the General Phone number however, you must remember that these calls are made from third world countries and making one call can be hard, the second is sometimes much harder.
I have provided a “snapshot” of what the information you provide. 
Please note that there is a telephone number listed for the “Facilities and Crossing”, Nogales International Airport however there is no direction as to who to call if the airport telephone is not answered.
I did call Nogales Airport at 4:00 A.M. this morning and the telephone was not answered.  I then called the General Information Service Port number and the call was answered.  I questioned the person who answered as to if I could request landing rights from that number and she indicated that yes, when no one is at the airport, I should call the main port office.
I asked her if this was the standard operating procedure with all the Districts and she indicated that she did not know however, that is how her District operated.  (it was a very  pleasant conversation, her name was Officer Ortiz)
The best solution would be that all (airport) Port telephones were set up so that after a certain number of rings, the call would transfer to the district office where there are people there 24/7.  This is simple and would take care of a major concern.

(Copy of USCBP telephone guide pasted here)

That USBP form 178 not be required once eAPIS is in effect
I have been told by Eric that this form, by law, will not be required however CBP Officers at several Ports indicate that they need more information than eAPIS provides and that we will always be required to provided form 178 upon arrival.

That the time-out period be increased
I have been in the process of filling out an eAPIS and have been interrupted or, had to get more information to continue.  When returning, I have been “timed out” and have had to go back out, re-enter my password, and pick back up.

That when you close eAPIS, eAPIS closes
We find that when you close eAPIS, it really does not close for about 15 minutes.  You can go back in with the computer that you closed it with but, if you try to access your account on a different computer, you cannot access your account.

Again, by addressing the above items, public acceptance and use of the product will be greatly improved.

Thank you in advance for your understanding and consideration in this matter.  Please contact me if I can be of further help.

Sincerely
Baja Bush Pilots


Jack McCormick
President

CC:      Eric Rodriguez, DHS
            Craig Spence, AOPA
 
___________________________________________________________
 
June 16, 2006
Alejandro Moreno
Director of Tourism, Baja North, Mexico
 
Dear Alejandro
          We have a major safety concern as well as a situation that is causing a major negative impact on tourism via private aircraft in Mexico.  As I am sure you realize, Baja North and Baja Sur are major destinations for private aircraft.  In Baja North, destinations include San Felipe, Meling Ranch, Alfonsinas, Punta San Francisquito, San Quintin, and more. 
Without going into great detail regarding aircraft performance, range, etc., once south of San Felipe, there is no fuel available until you get to Loreto, a distance of some 380 nautical miles.  And, in a standard 172, its operating range is only 395 miles.  In addition, the City of San Felipe controls the fuel at its airport and it is not unusual for it to either run out or have equipment failure that cuts off the supply of fuel at that location. 
This is a critical problem for the general aviator and has, in some cases, caused US pilots to quit coming to Mexico and spend their vacation dollars elsewhere.
We understand that San Felipe is not an ASA airport and that it must purchase its fuel for resale from Mexicalli however, there is no reason to not be able to anticipate the need for fuel and to have adequate repair materials on hand.
In addition, consideration must be made for the availability of fuel mid-way down Baja either at Bay of Los Angeles or Guerrero Negro.  There has been fuel at numerous locations between San Felipe and Loreto in the past however, for what ever reason, all these services have been discontinued.
I am herby requesting a meeting within the next 30 days to discuss these two subjects with the intent of improving services at San Felipe as well as locating a dependable supply of fuel between the two major airports.
 
Sincerely
Baja Bush Pilots
Jack McCormick
President
 
CC:      Cpt. Gilberto Lopez Meyer, 
           Cpt. Mauro Gomez Peralta
           Comandante Martha Lopez
           Nicholas Reyes
 


 
June 15, 2006
Mexico City
Claudia and I, in a series of meetings, met with persons at the DGAC regarding the various concerns that we raised at the Amigos meeting in Monterey in March of this year.  The meetings were positive and our original items as well as additional items were addressed.  We believe that we were successful in all but one of our concerns.  As indicated in previous postings and what was discussed:
 
Item 1, Sport Category Requirements
 

  • At the present time, Mexico does not recognize the sport category aircraft however, they know that it is an issue and have started the process for this type of aircraft to fly in Mexico. In addition, with the advent of the “small business jet” and the fact that Mexico (nor Canada) allow single pilot jet flights in their countries, this is an additional issue that they are considering.
  •  

Item 2, Multi-Entrance Authorization:
 

  • Our concern that the law for this Authorization states that it is for use by foreign aircraft entering Mexico but the Authorization states, “from the US”.  There was review of the law and the Authorization form and it was agreed that the form is incorrect and will be changed.
  • The requirement for monthly reporting by every foreign aircraft that has a Multi-Entrance form was discussed.  It was agreed that this request is unreasonable and the reporting requirements should be changed.
  • That the DGAC confirmed that a Multi-Entrance authorization is not valid if it is not accompanied by an official receipt.  If you only have the first two pages of your authorization, it is not valid.  It is the pilot’s responsibility to insist that he /she gets an official receipt when purchasing a Multi-Entrance Authorization.
  • That due to the fact that the Commander of an airport is not always available, changes are being made so that Inspectors can sign the form.
  •  

Item 3, the Multi-Entrance Authorization was not valid for rental aircraft.
 

  • This item was discussed, the law and form was reviewed, and it was determined that this is not correct.  This will be addressed with the Commander of the one airport and should not be a continuing problem
  •  

Item 4, Multi-Entry requires GHC-001 form.
 

  • It was explained that when this law was passed, that there were issues that were not taken into consideration.  Because the GHC-001 is not just a DGAC requirement but also a requirement from Immigration, Customs, Taxation, and more, this form has to remain.  However, in an effort to simplify paperwork and procedures, those involved are looking at ways to make this easer.
  •  

Item 5, Checking out of Mexico from a non-international airport (IATA airport)
 

  • Mexico knows that many are checking out of Mexico from IATA airports. (unless an International airport was the last stop of the trip literary) 
  • I also indicated that most, when not checking out, avoid the TCAs of Mexico’s airports in order to avoid the need to communicate. 
  • I also indicated that the foreign pilot wants to do what is right however; as the DGAC has no law that requires departing from an international airport and the only reason to stop is to surrender the GHC-001 (General Delectations form) most are electing not to stop.  They fully understand our position and indicated that upper levels of the government are aware of this and are working together to come up with a solution that will satisfy all departments thusly allowing this practice to continue via written directive so that Mexico has the control that they need and the foreign (and Mexican) pilot can continue this practice with out any guilt feelings.

 

Item 8, That MMPE is not recognized by the US FAA as a MexicanAirport of Entry (AOE)
 

  • A letter will be written to ICAO indicating that MMPE is International and this information will be circulated
  •  

Additional items that were discussed were:
 
The lack of fuel in Baja North and South between the airports of San Felipe and Loreto.
 

The fact that fuel was not dependable at San Felipe
 

That there are errors in Mexico’s airport database
 

That insurance underwriters in Mexico are referencing the DGAC in order to justify changes
 

 
 
June 16, 2006
Captan Gilberto Lopez Mayer
Director General, DGAC
Providencia No. 807 Piso 6
Col. Del Valle C.P. 03100
MexicoD.F.
 
Dear Captain
I am requesting your assistance in a matter that troubles me greatly as well as could have a major impact on foreign general aviation in Mexico.  If I may, the Baja Bush Pilots, along with many other activities, is a licensed insurance broker that sells Mexican liability insurance to foreign aircraft flying into and throughout Mexico.  We are told by our underwriters, Seguros Commercial America that we are one of their largest producers selling over 2,000 policies a year to our members. 
Even though a very large portion of our sales is from insurance and changes that they are proposing to implement would mean more profit for our company, we are troubled by their reasons for these changes as well as the potential negative impact on general aviation in Mexico.  These changes include but are not limited to:
 

 What bothers me most is that they are citing several of the changes as directives from Mexico’s DGAC.
 Claudia Smith, my personal assistant, has researched Mexican law and DGAC rules and cannot find any language addressing the requirement that policies be in Spanish nor that a Mexican underwriter must underwrite the policy.  We know that the Mexican underwriter clause was in effect but was removed at the same time the Multi-Entrance Authorization was instituted. 
We have been given two extensions from our underwriters holding the old prices and conditions in effect and will be asking for additional extensions until we get an answer from you.  We are requesting that the DGAC research these several subjects and provide us as much information as possible to the validity of the underwriter’s claims. 
And, what is Mexico’s position on aircraft flying in Mexico that have current annuals, have a current airworthiness certificate, and are over 40 years old or in the experimental class.
Sincerely
Baja Bush Pilots
Jack McCormick
President
CC:      Cpt. Mauro Gomez Peralta, DGAC
            Nicholas Reyes, US FAA
           Seguros Commerical America
 
 


Date:   March 14, 2006
 
To:       Captain Gilberto Lopez Meyer, Director General, DGAC
            Captain Gomez Peralta, Sub Director, DGAC
            Mr. Tom Stuckey, FAA
            Mr. Robert Hernandez, FAA
            Mr. Nick Reyes, FAA
CC:      Alejandro Guetierrez Guetierrez
From:   Jack McCormick, Baja Bush Pilots
Reg:     Various subjects:
I will be asking for information and /or clarification on the following information at the conference:
 


May 8, 2003
Senador Alejandro Gutierrez Gutierrez
Reforma No. 10
Piso 5, Despacho 28, Col. Tabacalera - Via Fax
Mexico, D.F. 06030
Dear Alejandro
The Baja Bush Pilots will be attending as well as speaking at the upcoming Amigos De La Aviacion to be held in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico on May 16 – 17, 2003. 
We receive and answer about 15 to 20 calls a day from American pilots regarding rules and regulations for flying into Mexico.  Although we believe we have the correct answers for the following items, we would like conformation.  (We have divided the questions into the group that we believe has jurisdiction) 
DGAC
1) That the Mexican Congress passed a bill last year containing a number of items referring to civil aviation.  One major item in this bill was that Mexico would be providing multi-entry authorization for private non-commercial aircraft to enter into and fly in Mexico.  It also calls for this authorization to be provided within seven working days.  It now takes at least two weeks and in some cases, several months to receive this authorization.  When will you be providing this within the legal time limit?

2) We have been told by Mexico that for helicopters to enter into and fly in Mexico, the only major requirements is that they have a multi-entry authorization (the same as fixed wing aircraft) and that all landings must be made at licensed airports/airstrips unless prior permission from the local commander is made.  Is this true and under what section of the law is it covered.
3) That although we have been provided a complete list of airports that accept credit cards, some airports 1) do not take them without major disagreement, 2) some only allow cards for landing fees or other combinations of fees, and 3) that some take a card for all expenses.  When will this be standardized?
4) That the US pilot wants the ability to depart from any Mexican airport to a US International Airport just as the US pilot can depart any US airport to a Mexican International Airport.  Where is this covered by Mexican law or ruling?  We have not been able to find this documentation
5) That there is uncertainty regarding the ability of a seaplane (amphibious aircraft) to land off airport.  What is the ruling on this?
6) What is the ruling on Technical Stops? We believe that international treaties allow for technical stops (fuel only) without requiring the entrance process i.e. Immigration, Customs, etc.  An example would be a person flying from the US (Brownsville) to Tical Guatemala and needs to stop for fuel only at a Mexican International Airport.
7) And we also believe that per international treaty, that all aircraft, foreign or domestic, must pay the same fees for the same service.  As it is now, Mexican registered aircraft pay about half the airport fees that the foreign aircraft pays.
8) That the new Mexican English language pamphlet, “Flying into Mexico” has been printed and that we would like to know how it will be distributed to the foreign pilots.  We have been told that we would have one for each of our members however, it has not happened.
9) That the “Flying into Mexico” pamphlet lists all International Airport telephone numbers and hours of operations.  There is a lot of confusion regarding fees and the day or the week or the time of the day.  What this really means is that there is an attempt to collect overtime charges for services that we feel are made during normal business hours. Are the hours of operation listed in the pamphlet include Customs and Immigration or is it flight service only.  If Customs and Immigration is not included, what are their hours?
10) That the TUA tax (US$20+- per person) has been attempted to be charged to private non-commercial aircraft at some airports.  This tax was voided by the same Congressional action mentioned above.
11) And, that one of our members was threatened with a US$40,000 dollar fine and confiscation of his aircraft by a Mexican Commander for claiming he was on a private non-commercial flight. The Commander claims he was on a commercial flight as he had a corporate registered aircraft.  We would like a ruling on this issue as well as a list of fines that can be levied against a pilot or owner of an aircraft when flying in Mexico.
Immigration
12) That requirements for immigration papers for individual persons seem to vary from airport to airport.  Some issue 10 days and others issue 180 days.  Some demand return of the paper when departing Mexico and some do not.  (our position is that small private non-commercial aircraft should be handled the same as private automobiles which are multi-entry and issued for 180 days)
13) We have been advised by several airports that passports are the only identification that Mexico will allow when entering Mexico.  Birth certificates, military identification, etc. will no longer be honored.  Is this correct.
14) That permission letters for minor children have been rejected because they were not written within the preceding seven days.  What is the ruling on this?
15) That an Immigration departure tax from Mexico to the US (US$100 per aircraft) has been attempted to be charged to private non-commercial aircraft at some airports.  This tax is no longer applicable however; we have the paper work to prove it is being charged, primarily in Leon and Durango.  We would like conformation on this issue.
Customs
16) That at many airports, Customs requires passengers to bring in all luggage prior to pushing the red/green light.  If green, it is taken back without a search.  If red, it is searched.  Why must all luggage be brought in to the terminal prior to knowing if there is to be a search.  This relates to flights checking into Mexico at an International Airport and continuing on.
I am requesting that these questions be forwarded to the appropriate people so that these subjects can be discussed at the Cuernavaca event.
Sincerely
Baja Bush Pilots

Jack McCormick
CC:     
Gilberto Lopez Meyer, Dir. Gen, DGAC
Jorge Nevarez Jacobo, Sub Dir, DGAC
Robert Hernandez, FAA
 
 

  • We have been informed by our Mexican underwriters that a series of changes are to be implemented regarding qualifying and fees.
  • These changes include raising rates 100 to 200%, not insuring experimental aircraft or military (restored) aircraft, and not underwriting aircraft that are over 40 years old.  In addition, they are indicating that Mexico requires all official documents (the policy) to be written in Spanish and, that all policies must be underwritten by a Mexican insurer. 
  • Upon further discussion with our underwriters, they indicate that several of the issues are required by Mexican law and /or the DGAC. 
  • The DGAC has requested an official letter to them from the BBP addressing these issues so that the correct information can be provided.
    __________________________________________________________
    • That they wish to increasing rates 100 to 200 percent
    • That they will not underwrite aircraft over 40 years old
    • That they will not underwrite experimental and some other classes of aircraft
    • That policies must be written in Spanish
    • That policies must be issued by a Mexican underwriter
    1. Mexican requirements for US pilots to fly the new “Sport Category” aircraft into and throughout Mexico
    2. That the Multi-Entry law states that foreign aircraft may request and receive a Multi-Entry Authorization to enter Mexico.  The law does not limit this to aircraft entering from the US however, on the Authorization, it is stated that the Multi-Entry form is for foreign aircraft entering from the US.  The problem is that some Mexican AOEs located in southern Mexico do not accept Multi-Entry from US aircraft (or other foreign aircraft) when entering Mexico from Central America or the Caribbean
    3. That San Felipe (MMSF) does not allow rental aircraft to use Multi-Entry Authorizations to enter Mexico.  They state that the Multi Entry law prohibits aircraft that are used for profit to have Multi-Entry Authorization and that a rental aircraft is making a profit for someone even if that flight is for tourism only.
    4. That the DGAC is now requiring a General Declaration ((GHC-001 Anex 1) even if you have a Multi-Entrance Authorization.  I believe that the law states that one of the two be used for entering Mexico, not both.  And the argument that the DGAC needs the General Declaration for the various entrance stamps could be solved by stamping the flight plan which is required for flight. (the purpose of the Multi-Entrance Authorization was to simplify paperwork as well as provide for annual payment of the fee) With the additional requirement of the General Declaration, this has not simplified the process but has increased the process for both the DGAC and the pilot.
    5. That to provide better information to Mexico about aircraft departing Mexico, it is suggested that the following be considered.  That all private aircraft that depart an IATA airport for flight into the US be required to contact the closest Mexican International airport via radio regarding their intentions when close to the border.  As an example, an aircraft departing gll for OLS would, when close to MMML, call MMML via radio and indicate who they are and that they are leaving Mexico for the US.  The tower (SENAM) could call down this information via telephone to the DGAC at MMML where a list could be kept.  Then, if there is ever a question about an aircraft checking out, it would be easy to confirm the date and time of departure from Mexico from this list.
    6. That some Mexican International airports allow the closing (and opening?) of flight plans without the need of going into the Flight Service Office.  Is this possible to expand to other airports. 
    7. That there is a lot of confusion with US Flight Service regarding flights entering the US from Mexico.  San Diego has one set of rules, Prescott has another, etc.  The confusion seems to be about what is required and that whatever is required is called.  Some call it a flight plan, some call it Customs advance notice, etc.  There is no consistency between Flight Services.  And, with more use of air-phones and satellite phones, we need the ability to file and open a flight plan via this means.  (right now, you can file a flight plan by sat phone in the air but Flight Service will not open it by phone so, after you file it, you then have to call the same flight service on the radio and open which, because of the lack of dependable communication in certain areas of Mexico,  is sometimes very hard to do)  
    8. That MMPE is an international Airport however; the US has not been notified as to this status. 
    9.  That there are certain areas of northern Mexico where you can enter and depart without the need of an FM1 for each passenger.  Could these areas be more defined?  i.e. an FM1 is not required for Baja Norte but is required for Baja Sur.
    10. And that we are requesting that Mexican Immigration allow FM1s to be used for multi-entrance for private aircraft when entering Mexico just as automobiles are now allowed to do.  
    11. That at many airports, Customs requires passengers to bring in all luggage prior to pushing the red/green light.  If green, it is taken back without a search.  If red, the luggage is required to be searched.  It is suggested that the red /green light be pushed once the pilot is in the office and if it is red, that luggage be brought in for search.  This relates to flights checking into Mexico at an InternationalAirport and continuing on to another destination. 

     

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