The latest IAOPA news has an article on this crowdfunding project:
Crowdfunding to support pilot caught in German customs trap
In particular, the pdf is interesting reading and concrete evidence of the traps awaiting us all every day that we cross a customs border.
This is amazing:
On July 11, 2015, a pilot using a Cessna 182P, accompanied by two fellow pilots, took off
from Birrfeld LSZF airfield (Switzerland) for a flight to Würzburg EDFW, he chose for entry
customs to Germany. He chartered the plane from the flight group Graziella, of which he was
a member at that time. The flight preparation was based on the then current Jeppesen- and
AIP Germany publications. On the relevant documents for Würzburg at that time (and still at
least one year later) the column “Customs” expressly stated: “Customs non-Schengen AC 24
h PPR”. Switzerland belongs to the Schengen area and the pilot interpreted this in a way that
Würzburg was still a customs airfield as it had been in the past for arrivals without goods. He
also filed an ATC flight plan from Birrfeld LSZF to Würzburg EDFW with the explicit remark
under the heading Remarks “Request customs, noncommercial”. In addition, the day before,
he contacted the air traffic controller of the Würzburg airfield by telephone and explained that
he needed entry duty, which was noted without comment. For exiting Switzerland, the pilot
filled the usual customs declaration.
This is amazing. Does any German pilot here know what the German AIP says for EDFW Customs availability?
I know that immigration can be very difficult to establish for a German airfield (it appears that only the airfield itself can tell you; there is no master document), but what about customs?
The EAD website does not have any AIP for EDFW, presumably because it is a VFR airport and you have to pay for access to the VFR airport data in Germany.
Jepp Flitestar text pages shows this:
Presumably, “police” = immigration.
Page AD 2–111 of the AIP VFR continuously said, from at least 19 FEB 2015 to at least the revision dated 16 FEB 2017:
CUST Zoll für nicht Schengener-Länder/customs for non-Schengen States
PPR 1 Werktag/workday
Zoll/customs ☎ (09721) 64640, Fax 64641800
Polizei/police ☎ (0931) 4572230
The point isn’t really if what was written in the AIP VFR wasn’t correct.
If he had complied with it, and had called customs before the flight, customs would have told him that the flight to EDFW is not admitted. But he hasn’t done so, jedgigng by what is written in the pdf (putting a remark into the FPL is nonsense).
It true though that the Flugleiter was clueless, but that doesn’t change the facts. One must be very wary with these Flugleiters. At the smaller airfields, they are not usually professionals (and even in case of one doing this full time as his job, one would have to be very wary if, upon asking him to advise customs, he just said “all is OK”, especially if he does it just a verbal info). One must be very careful with customs. They are the worst people to deal with.
Yes, remark in FPL is nonsense. But calling the airport and telling the airport in advance that you will need customs is definitely not nonsense, and would be considered by most (all?) pilots as even more safe than relying on what’s written on the AIP. Having the airport call the authorities after landing (OK, the wrong authorities as they called police and not customs, according to the story) is not nonsense.
According to the story, EDFW had its customs status revoked, but neither the people that make the AIP, nor the airport itself (!!!) knew about it.
The AIP entry is a bit weird. I’m not sure how to understand it:
This stuff is sometimes so difficult…
Not many years ago, I diverted (for fuel) to an airport in a country not a million miles south of here, which is 24hrs PN for immigration, never mind customs. Both inbound and onward flights required immigration. The guy behind the desk said “let’s all just pretend you never landed here”. I could not possibly say it was done with a Gallic shrug because that would identify the country… Luckily I had a local language speaker with me so we phoned the police and they said they were not interested. They could have just detained us for the 24hrs… or confiscated the aircraft, etc. since I had not declared a mayday.
In the UK, this German case could never, under any stretch of imagination, ever, have been prosecuted. Even a semi illiterate defence solicitor who spends 99% of his time dealing with property boundary disputes, would have wiped the floor with the prosecution. UK Customs have huge powers but they would not try this.
So how is this possible to get this far in Germany? What is the essential mechanism in action?
How was the fine assessed? Is it some % of the market value of the aircraft? Or was there cargo?
If consulting the AIP and phoning the airport is not due diligence, what is?
Putting an RMK in the FPL is dumb, but this mistake is common in the UK too and happens because most PPL instructors have never flown past the nearest crease in the map.
What should he have done? Land at a well established port of entry?
Land at a customs airfield.
If he had complied with it, and had called customs before the flight, customs would have told him that the flight to EDFW is not admitted.
Why do you say he had to do what was written? The written text mentions only non-Schengen states but Switzerland is a Schengen state. So actually it does not say anything special for Switzerland.
Again the long lasting customs vs. immigration. The text is actually wrong because it mixes the two: Schengen is about immigration, not about customs, so having customs for non-Schengen states is a mixed salad.