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Proof of negative coronavirus test required to enter US by air

“This order applies to all flights, including private flights and general aviation aircraft (charter flights),” the CDC explained in its frequently asked questions resource that accompanies the order. “Passengers traveling by air into the US are required to have proof of testing regardless of flight type.” This includes family and friends on GA aircraft.

AOPA has requested that the FAA issue a notice to airmen “to help ensure awareness in the cockpits,” said Murray Huling, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs.

According to the order announced January 12, passengers will be required to present proof of a negative “viral test (NAAT or antigen)” and fill out a declaration form before boarding the aircraft—even those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. Passengers can present a paper copy or an electronic copy of the negative test result. This requirement applies to passengers age 2 and older.

The testing mandate does not apply to crewmembers on duty, but they must “follow industry standard protocols for the prevention of COVID-19 as set forth in relevant Safety Alerts for Operators (SAFOs) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration,” the CDC said. In addition, airlines and GA aircraft operators (which can be the pilot in command if it’s not a commercial, corporate, charter, or airline operation) will need to keep passenger declaration forms for two years; the test results do not need to be retained. Failure to comply with the requirements of the order can result in legal penalties.

Passengers must take the test within three days of the flight to the United States, or in the case of multiple connecting flights, no more than three days before the first flight as long as all of the connecting flights “were booked as a single passenger record with a final destination in the US and each connection (layover) is no longer than 24 hours long. If your connecting flight to the US was booked separately or a connection in your itinerary lasts longer than 24 hours, you will need to get tested within the 3 days before your flight that arrives in the US.” The requirement also applies to passengers who are traveling to another country but have a connection in the United States.

For passengers who have tested positive for the coronavirus within three months of the flight, have recovered, and have completed the requirements to end isolation, the CDC requires documentation of the positive viral test result and a letter from their health care provider or other health official that clears them for travel. Both documents are needed together to qualify as what the CDC refers to as “documentation of recovery.”

Once in the United States, the CDC requests that passengers get tested after three to five days and self-quarantine for seven days. Those who opt not to get tested should isolate for 10 days.

The order comes as new variants of the novel coronavirus are spreading around the globe. New variants have been reported in the United Kingdom and the Republic of South Africa, as well as in Florida, Colorado, and California. The United Kingdom has instituted a national lockdown that prohibits GA leisure flying.

The CDC said that the order is intended to preserve life; prevent the “further introduction, transmission, and spread of the virus”; protect the health and safety of “crew members, passengers, airport personnel, and communities”; and preserve “hospital, healthcare, and emergency response resources within the United States.”

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