Feds Demand to Know Who and Where Earlier

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Charter operators worry that a recent proposal from the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) could cause lengthy delays. Right now, operators can transmit manifest information — who is with them on the flight — up to 15 minutes after the aircraft departs. The new proposal would require an advance manifest at least 60 minutes before departure from international flights inbound to or outbound from the U.S. The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) says it is concerned that the increased compliance burden for Part 135 operators will cause indefinite delays. What will happen, NATA asks, if a passenger is determined to be high risk and cannot be immediately cleared?

NATA contends that since most of the on-demand carriers do not have interactive capabilities with the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, the CBP will have to manually communicate their findings, further slowing the process. The CBP is more concerned with preventing high-risk boardings than making sure the charters get off the ground on time and stress their goal will be achieved. The proposal isn’t something the CBP just dreamed up one night after watching a Law and Order marathon on TNT. In December 2004, congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, calling for the Department of Homeland Security to write a safety procedure to vet such possible terrorist risks.

Since current rules allow the operators to transmit information up to 15 minutes into the flight, high-risk pax may make it on board. Once discovered, the plane could be diverted or turned back, but that still means a potentially dangerous person is on the plane, possibly with nefarious intent and the explosives or weaponry necessary to carry it out. The CBP thinks advance vetting of passengers could eliminate the need for carriers to conduct "watch-list" screening of passengers. Comments on the proposal are due Aug. 14 and can be submitted via the online federal docket system — use docket number USCBP-2005-0003.