Answers for Pilots

Oh, Canada!

July 1, 2001

An easy international adventure

"I am planning an IFR flight from Michigan to Ohio in the near future," an AOPA member recently wrote in an e-mail message to AOPA . "The most direct route will include flying through Canadian airspace from north of Detroit to east of Cleveland. What can I expect from Canadian ATC?"

If planning a flight through Canadian airspace, a pilot can expect Canadian ATC to be much like U.S. controllers. But landing in Canada does have a few requirements. "Probably the easiest international flight that a pilot can make is to Canada," says John Collins, AOPA aviation technical specialist. "For a fledgling international aviator, it's perfect."

The first step to making the flight through Canadian airspace is to obtain the proper charts and supplements needed for the trip. At minimum, pilots will need the Canada Flight Supplement and visual navigation charts that cover the route. World aeronautical charts (WACs) provide VFR coverage of Canada; VNCs (VFR navigation charts) are the equivalent of U.S. sectionals; and VTAs (VFR terminal area charts) are the equivalent to U.S. Class B airspace charts. Also valuable are Canada Air Pilot IFR approach plates, separated by territory and language; Canada Air Pilot en route low- and high-altitude charts for IFR navigation; and the Canada Flight Supplement for Canada and North Atlantic (CFS), which is the equivalent to the U.S. airport facility directory. Jeppesen Sanderson Canadian trip kits contain complete requirements and procedures.

Essential for the border crossing are proof of citizenship — a current passport or birth certificate; aircraft documentation — the standard airworthiness certificate, permanent registration certificate, operating limitations, and weight and balance; your pilot credentials; and advance notification to Canadian customs (no less than one hour but no more than 72 hours prior to your arrival).

Overflights that originate and end in the United States require that the pilot file and activate a flight plan, and Canadian regulations must be observed when flying in Canadian airspace. Write Canadian overflight — no landing in the remarks section of the flight plan. Flight plans must also be used when flying beyond 25 nautical miles of an airport in Canada. The Canadian government charges U.S.-registered aircraft for air traffic control services based on the aircraft's certified gross weight ($17.75 Canadian — $15 U.S. — per calendar quarter for aircraft under 4,410 pounds, gross weight).

On your return to the United States, Customs requires advance notice of arrival. The requirements vary and you'll need to check with the specific airport you'll be using. The telephone numbers for U.S. Customs offices can be found in AOPA's Airport Directory and AOPA's Airport Directory Online. It's important to be on time (most airports of entry require no less than one hour but no more than 23 hours of advance notification), but it's better to be a little late than too early. Pilots should update the estimated time of arrival by contacting ATC and requesting them to advise Customs of the revised arrival time. U.S. Customs instituted a general aviation telephonic entry program known as GATE. For approved applicants, an 800 number can be used for Customs notification.

"Initially the task and paperwork involved in crossing the border may seem daunting," said Collins. "But it is really quite simple — and worth the effort." Flying to Canada in a GA aircraft can be one of a pilot's most memorable adventures.

As an AOPA member, you have access to the best resource anywhere for information and answers for pilots. AOPA provides information for its members through a vast array of communications technology. You can reach experts in all fields of aviation via AOPA Online, the AOPA Pilot Information Center (800/USA-AOPA), and via e-mail. Aviation technical specialists respond promptly to member requests. AOPA Online provides members with access to information and resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The toll-free AOPA Pilot Information Center gives you direct access to specialists in every area of aviation. The center is available to members from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.

March 10, 2008

AOPA Web resources

The archives of AOPA Pilot and AOPA

An alphabetically organized guide to flying internationally

A short overview of the entire flight through Canada from departure to reentry

Information reported by members on fuel costs, fees, etc., at various Canadian airports

FAA information on flying to Canada

U.S. Customs arrival report form to be filled out on return to the United States

U.S. Customs annual user fee decal application that you will need at the port of entry

Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker | AOPA Senior Features Editor

AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.