Monday, October 05, 2009

eAPIS, or Praise Be to Customs Expediters

I learn that my next task is not to return to the field with this airplane, but to take a different airplane to Kansas to get the autopilot repaired. Apparently every avionics technician in Canada has washed their hands of this terrible autopilot, and there's a superb shop in New Century, Kansas (I'm guessing that town just celebrated its centennial) where they know how to fix the most reluctant autopilots. Airplane number two is currently sitting in a maintenance shop at another airport, where a different engineer and apprentices are wrestling with the installation of the electronic tachometers. The PRM will drive me there and then I will take the airplane to Kansas and get an airline flight home for my time off. Meanwhile the next shift of pilots will come here to take this airplane back to the jobsite.

So the downside is that I won't get to see the look on the customer's face when he sees that his complaint about the carpet has been addressed in full, but I've never landed in Kansas, as far as I remember. I don't even know much about it. I understand that Kansas is very flat, has powerful cyclonic storms, is located somewhere south of Nebraska and north of Arkansas, and they make Cessnas there. And wheat. I had also heard a rumour that circles in Kansas were officially not quite the way they are in the rest of the world, but that seems to have been Indiana, and not made it into law. I prepare to go to Kansas.

You might think I'd start by increasing my geographical precision beyond the Nebraska-to-Arkansas approximation, but getting there will be the easy part. It's getting permission to get there that will hold me up. I ask the boss if he has started the paperwork with our broker for the flight, or if I should contact them myself. He says that as this is not a commercial flight, I shouldn't bother with the broker, just do it as a private flight to get the work done on the airplane. I start by choosing an airport of entry, one close to a straight line from here to Kansas, with 24 hours customs service, and fairly close to the border so that if anything happens requiring a diversion, I'm not forced to land at a US airport with no customs. I call the airport to find out their procedures. This shouldn't be necessary, but experience has taught me that things are not done the same way at every station and the best way to avoid delays or disapproval is to respectfully find out exactly how they want it done. I reach an amazingly friendly and helpful customs agent who e-mails me the form I need and a link to the appropriate website along with instructions for exactly where to go and what to do at his airport.

As well as filing the usual flight plan and customs arrival intentions, I now have to complete eAPIS paperwork. Except, as the e implies, it's not paper, but electronic. This is where I find out about the work my customs expediter has been doing on my behalf. Mind boggling. Once I see how much work it will be I go to bed, planning to do it in the morning. The airplane won't be ready to go until midday.

5 comments:

Marc Cote said...

New Century -> Centenial, nope. New Century Air Center used to be called Naval Air Station Olathe, just outside Gardner KS, which is where I live. Gardner is about 10 miles southwest of the metro area along I-35.

Angus said...

The government eAPIS site is a stunning example of poor design. If you do any number of border crossings fltplan.com offers an excellent alternative for about $250 per year.

Oh...and the wind in Kansas doesn't blow...it sucks.

Aviatrix said...

Angus: Fortunately, most of the time when I cross the border I just call our broker and tell him where in the US I want to land. Then he does everything that has to be done and calls back to tell me the paperwork is complete. All I have to do is file the flight plan and give the destination customs a quick call with a precise time of arrival.

Anonymous said...

It's not enough to show that Kansas is flatter than one random junk-food pancake.
The scientific world needs to know whether all US flyover states are flatter than all pancakes, or whether a skilfully-made crepe or dosa knocks them, er, flat.

Jimmy said...

Good luck with the A/P! If it is like my Altimatic IV you will need it...

If they can't fix it try Bob at Autopilot Central (believe they are in Tulsa). He hasn't worked on mine, but in talking to him it is clear they know their stuff.

Oh yeah eAPIS blows...