Answers for Pilots: Flying to Canada


It's not like the old days.

June 1, 2009

As the weather gets warm, many pilots, like birds, get the urge to fly North. From May through September, AOPA answers phone and email inquiries from pilots asking what is needed to fly across the border into Canada. While many of the requirements for border crossing remain the same, this year, there are three new aspects to consider—and these three items generate the majority of the questions we answer.

First is eAPIS, which is Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) Electronic Advance Passenger Information System. Effective May 18, 2009 pilots who fly internationally are required to provide passenger manifests to CBP when departing from and arriving back in the U.S. using this electronic reporting system. (Exception: If you overfly Canada without landing, eAPIS is not required.) In order to use the system, pilots must register for an online account. Once the account is approved, the pilot will be able to use the system to file passenger manifests electronically. Under the new rule, manifests must be filed at least one hour before departing from or arriving in the United States, but the new system allows pilots to file as far in advance as they wish, giving the freedom to provide information for the return trip via the Internet before leaving home. AOPA Air Safety Foundation has a free online course, “Understanding eAPIS - A Pilot's Guide to Online Customs Reporting” that guides pilots step-by-step through the online reporting process.

Next is the English proficient endorsement, which was discussed in last month’s “ Answers for Pilots.” Effective March 5, 2009, FAA mandated compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) rule that all member countries (that includes the U.S.) issue pilot certificates that state the pilot is English proficient if that pilot plans to use the certificate outside of his or her home country. All new and replacement FAA pilot certificates will automatically be issued with the English Proficient endorsement on the back, since proficiency in the English language has been a long-standing FAA requirement for basic eligibility for a U.S. airman certificate. For the fastest service, request a replacement certificate on the Internet from FAA’s Airmen Online Services.

Finally, regarding 406 MHz ELTs—at this time, U.S. aircraft flying to and from Canada may be equipped with either 121.5 MHz or 406 MHz ELTs. Read more about this online.

And feel free to call AOPA’s Pilot Information Center at 800/USA-AOPA with any questions you may have about flying to Canada.

Kathy Dondzila

Kathy Dondzila | Manager, Technical Communications, Pilot Information Center

Technical Communications Manager, Kathy Dondzila, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.