Customs and Border Protection Searches
Recent Customs and Border Protection (CBP) searches have been on the rise. Some searches catch the bad guys smuggling drugs or criminals. However, the CBP searches in question are those searches that are intimidating lawful citizens flying small aircraft, making them feel guilty before the search even takes place.
I personally know of a few pilots that have been searched, these searched didn't even happen at the border. The searches were not warranted, both times not a thing was found. The result was an aircraft that was torn and scratched to pieces leaving the owner to pick up what was left.
The CBP uses their tracking system to track small aircraft during flight. The system then alerts authorities to the aircraft in question. Long flights between several states tends to set off the system.
There are several pilot organizations that are aware of the issue. AOPA is one organization that is taking the lead. They recommend a positive attitude during the search and for the airmen to know their rights.
The problem here is that the CBP always falls back on phrases like... "National security" "Since 9/11"... I think that the guidelines for a search should be published and known, so that people will know what to expect during a search. I'm thankful that we have the CBP to protect our borders, but given all the technology and funds at their disposal, its embarrassing the level of "false alarms" they get!
Yes, I know I'll probably be detained next time I land...
The LA Times also had an article today.
AOPA's What to do guide.
Fly safe! Matt