Customs requirements for powered paragliding gear
Getting gear across borders can be a hassle, even more so for those who are in the business.
All a private individual has to do is show that it’s his and that he’s not selling the gear. That can be done with a receipt of purchase or sometimes a registration done through one of the ultralight organizations. But for a business trying to import machines or motors, they can fall into numerous pitfalls. Weeks long delays are not uncommon when some overzealous border agent applies laws that shouldn’t be applied. No doubt the agent means well, they’re just mis-applying rules that aren’t meant for other applications.
Such was the case when longtime paramotor importer Francesco DeSantis was stymied with a shipment of engines from Italy into the U.S. Thankfully, he shares his experience in case it comes up again.
The shipment was held up because it didn’t meet Federal EPA emissions requirements for engines. Those requirements don’t apply to aircraft which, as you’ll see below, include us even though the FAA has a special place in its heart for “Ultralight Vehicles.”
The EPA did eventually straighten things out for Francesco with this letter:
For purposes of applying EPA emission standards, we say that the land-based standards do not apply to aircraft, which we define as “any vehicle capable of sustained air travel above treetop heights.” The EPA aircraft standards do not apply to flying things that are exempt from airworthiness certification at FAA. As such, ultralights are not subject to EPA emission standards.
If anyone asks questions during the importation process, you can refer to 40 CFR 1068.310(d), which specifically says that aircraft are generally excluded from EPA certification requirements (see the link below). The EPA importation form does not apply for aircraft engines, but if anyone insists that you fill it in, I would suggest that you identify this as a land-based nonroad engine below 19 kW and check the box saying that these are engines not yet subject to standards.
I hope this helps. Let me know if you need to follow up.
So if you run into this problem, now at least you’ll know where to look.
Thanks to Francesco for sharing this information.
Material Data Safety Sheet & Declaration
The EPA is only one of your worries. Some shippers have asked for documentation showing that your gear is not hazardous. Of course the first thing is to make sure that, in fact, it isn’t!
Once you’ve done all the appropriate cleaning to insure there’s no fuel or oil in the machine (or on it, for that matter), then you can create a Material Data Safety Sheet. The pilot who reported needing it sent me a copy of what worked and I created a generic version for pilots to download. Then modify it with your own information as appropriate.
Fill in your own information then include it with any other paperwork when you go to ship or check your gear.
Remember that nearly all U.S. airlines WILL NOT take paramotors as baggage, even brand new ones that have never been run. Some pilots have tried and got by but others have been stranded when the airline refused to take it. At most airlines, the official policy is “no engines.”