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A new twist to crossing the Schengen area border

This morning I visited Aachen-Merzbrück EDKA, which serves the same area as a very GA-unfriendly Maastricht-Aachen EHBK. The aerodrome is fairly unusual: the runway is tarmac, but only 520 m. Apparently, it has remained this way since WWII. Upon landing, I noticed on the tower, besides the usual yellow board with a C, a blue one with an EU constellation and "Bundesrepublik Deutschland" in the middle, so I asked the AFIS guy:

– Do you really have border control available here?

– Yes, we do.

– Is it PPR?

– Customs control is PPR, but you only need it for Switzerland.

– What about passport control?

– Passport control is me - I am also a policeman.

That's what I would call the right way to handle the issue. The guy sells fuel, too (100LL and Jet-A available).

LKBU (near Prague), Czech Republic

The hard runway was constructed post-WW2. This airfield was a base for Belgian Army Aviation at one time, they flew helicopters and Piper Cubs, and probably BN2 Islanders too.

EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

Passport control is me - I am also a policeman.

Yes, AFIS are usually appointed as police aids and have authority to perform passport control on behalf of the border police. Normally they have to call the border police, report the case and then receive instructions what to do (do nothing, check passport, hold until police arrive).

However, I believe they do not have customs police authority. In our area, Switzerland is usually the destination where police actually come to the airfield because of money laundering. I've never had them actually come for another destination but in about 50% of the cases when I go to Switzerland. Ever since I upgraded from the 172 to the 182, my money laundering payload has increased to ca 500kg (ca 220m€ in 500 € bills).

PS: AFIS also have a gun. But it's a flare gun only

I recall planning to fly there to meet a colleague, and at the time it had Customs and they told me one could fly there directly from the UK.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

few years ago (pre-schengen times for us) we were to visit Slovakia. There was a small airfield with customs O/R. So we did request. After landing we were warmly welcome by a nice local guy with small dachshund asking for passport. "why the hell he wants passports, we should be waiting for customs to arrive". Later we find out the the guy was border police office in his other life...the only thing we didn´t find out was if the dachshund was an official or just a private dog....


Funny he should say he checks passports for Switzerland. Actually, that is not even needed, as Switzerland is a Schengen state, but what is needed is customs.

The question is, has Aachen got the authority for non schengen customs. If so, it is ideal for flights from / to the UK.

LSZH, Switzerland

Mooney Driver, you don't need customs for flights between the UK and Schengen countries, as both sides are in the EU, but you do need passport control. When saying that customs are "for Switzerland only", the guy most likely meant that Switzerland is the only non-EU country they get traffic from. On the other hand, if using Aachen as a border crossing point and a fuel stop, one may be better off doing it in Belgium, where avgas is about 25% cheaper.

LKBU (near Prague), Czech Republic

I learned to fly there... nice place, effectively run by the Kampsmann family, who own the maintenance org and the flying school there, several generations of pilots and instructors... there are plans to extend the runway, but they existed for decades now with little action.

There are many non-customs border crossing points in Germany, effectively their FISO is authorized to check passports. These are good for EU arrivals that do not require customs.

I don't quite get why you think that Maastricht is GA-unfriendly - I used it many times when flying an aircraft for which 520m was a bit short.

In the past you had to use the main terminal, which while deserted was a bit annoying, but now that the local flying school/MO does the handling it is friendly, efficient, and only on occasion the local officials felt the need to ask me to wait for a passport inspection. Has that changed?

Biggin Hill


Switzerland is non EU but Schengen. Therefore customs is required but no immigrations.

The UK is non Schengen but EU. Therefore immigration is required, but no customs.

Don't worry, even the French did not understand that initially... I don't think they do now, but they hastily reinstated some customs at airfields knowing a lot of cross border traffic with Switzerland.

LSZH, Switzerland

But .... surely .... in "international aviation-speak" an airport has "Customs", or doesn't have "Customs".

Are there really airports that distinguish between Customs and Immigration?

(Ignore the UK situation which is different anyway and where you get this kind of thing and ignore the fact that Switzerland and Greece basically do not operate the Schengen treaty for anybody travelling via a "vehicle").

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
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