H.R. 3801: Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act of 2012

H.R. 3801

Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act of 2012

January 25, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, January 25, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 3801 under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval.  H.R. 3801 was introduced by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) on January 23, 2012, and was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means as well as the House Committee on Armed Services.

Bill Summary

H.R. 3801 would amend the Tariff Act of 1930 (otherwise known as the Smoot–Hawley Tariff) to include ultralight aircraft under its aviation smuggling provisions and provide for additional criminal punishments for using an ultralight aircraft to transport illegal goods. Under current law, it is a crime for individuals to use aircraft to illegally transport drugs and the maximum penalty carries a $250,000 and a 20-year prison sentence.  This legislation would allow the same prosecution for persons smuggling drugs on ultralight aircraft.


Every year hundreds of ultralight aircraft are flown across the southern border and can carry several hundred pounds of narcotics. According to the 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment, “Smuggling via ultralights has increased since 2008, with several hundred incidents reported in FY2010. Most incidents occur in central Arizona and western New Mexico. Loads can exceed 100 kilograms and mainly involve marijuana.” Ultralights are small, single-seat aircraft that are favored by smugglers because they are inexpensive, relatively quiet and can fly at night without lights. They are often able to evade radar detection and can drop a load of narcotics in the U.S. and return to Mexico without ever landing in this country. Under current law, drug smugglers who use ultralights receive a lesser penalty than those who use airplanes or cars. This legislation was sponsored and championed by retiring Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.


A CBO cost estimate for H.R. 3801 was not available as of press time.