Customs Seizure Benefits Florida

In August 2008, a piece of America’s aviation history, the Douglas AD-4N Skyraider*, reentered its home territory under false pretenses, which ultimately led U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to seize the aircraft nearly a year later.  Import and export of military aircraft and other defense articles generally requires a license or permit under the Arms Export Control Act that neither the pilot or owner of the aircraft provided to CBP officers upon the plane’s arrival in Port of Buffalo, N.Y. from France.  Rather, the pilot provided false information to CBP in order to enter the country without the appropriate authorization.

The scheme may have worked had the aircraft’s 20mm cannons not been discovered in October 2008 at the Port of Savannah, Ga hidden inside containers being imported by the aircraft’s owner, Claude Hendrickson, president of Dixie Equipment in Woodstock, Ala.  Upon this discovery, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) unit launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the importation of the cannons, which revealed the unauthorized entry of the aircraft earlier that year.

Under 22 U.S.C. §2778(b)(2) “Control of Arms Export and Imports”, no defense article (as designated by the President on the United States Munitions List) may be imported or exported without a license, whether for export or temporary or permanent import from either the Department of State or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).  In this case, the importer would have required a license for importation from the ATF because the importation of the U.S. Munitions List Category 8 aircraft was permanent (as opposed to temporary import licenses, which are granted by the State Department).

The process of obtaining a permit from the ATF for importation of arms, ammunition and implements of war begins with an application Form 6, which must be signed, dated, and contain very specific information regarding the importer, foreign seller and shipper, and specifications of the article to be imported.  The regulations set forth in 27 C.F.R. §447.42 list the requirements in more detail.  Importers will generally have an answer from ATF on their permit within four to six weeks provided the importer properly completes the Form 6.  Once the importer receives the permit, it will be valid for one year from the issuance date, and the importer must then complete a Form 6A, “Release and Receipt of Imported Firearms, Ammunition and Implements of War”  in order to obtain release of the article from CBP upon its arrival into the United States.**

As a result of Mr. Hendrickson’s not following these guidelines for importing his aircraft, the plane and its log books, cannons, and other parts are now on their way to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.

*This aircraft is an American single-seat attack aircraft that was used by both the U.S. and French military from the 1940s through the 1980s.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_A-1_Skyraider

**This is a simplified explanation of the arms licensing and permit procedure.  For more information on importing munitions, please visit the following website:  http://www.atf.gov/firearms/how-to/import-firearms-ammo-implements-of-war.html.  It is also highly advisable for importers to seek the advice of professionals engaged in the import and export of arms and munitions as well as the advice of legal counsel.

For more information see the following:

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