Answers for Pilots: Canada, our Northern Neighbor

June 11, 2014

international flying canadaFrom scenic Prince Edward Island to pristine Lake Louise, sitting deep within the northern Rocky Mountains, Canada offers a multitude of beautiful and airplane-friendly places to visit. Crossing the border is straightforward and our northern neighbors welcome visitors from the United States. Summer is the perfect time to visit and escape the heat and humidity in many parts of the Lower 48.

Here is the basic information you need to know. More complete details are available online.

Preparing to depart

The pilot in command must have a current passport, medical certificate, restricted radiotelephone operators permit, and a pilot certificate with an English proficient endorsement. Passengers also will need passports. If you are carrying a child with only one parent, bring a notarized statement of approval from the absent parent stating the dates of the trip.
Your aircraft needs a standard airworthiness certificate, a permanent registration certificate (no temporary certificates), a radio station license, operating limitations and weight and balance information, an ID date plate, a transponder with Mode C or a TSA waiver if the aircraft is not so equipped, either a 121.5 or a 406 MHz ELT, current charts, and insurance for flight into Canada. If fuel tanks are installed in the baggage or passenger compartments, you must have Form 337 on board.

Private aircraft must be covered with liability insurance and proof of coverage must be carried onboard. AOPA Insurance Services provides coverage; you can contact them at 800/622-AOPA (2672) or email aopainsurance@aopa.org for more information. The amount and types of coverage are based on the aircraft’s gross takeoff weight and are listed online.

Customs and Borders Protection requires an annual user fee decal ($27.50) – allow a few weeks for delivery. You can buy decals online. For decal questions, call CBP at (317)-298-1245 or send an email to decals@dhs.gov. You’ll also need to file an eAPIS (CBP’s Electronic Advance Passenger Information System) passenger manifest with CBP when departing from and arriving back in the U.S. Manifests must be filed at least one hour before departing from or arriving in the United States, but pilots can file as far in advance as they wish, giving the option to provide information for the return trip via the Internet before leaving home.

Certain rifles and shotguns for sport, competition, or survival and ammunition are permitted in Canada, but be sure you declare them when going through customs. An advance permit is required from Canadian authorities for certain restricted firearms.

Entry into Canada

Pilots are required to provide advance notification to CBSA by calling 1-888/CAN-PASS (226-7277). You must provide notification no less than two (2) hours but no more than 48 hours prior to your arrival. A filed and activated flight plan is required for border crossing, and your first landing in Canada must be at an airport of entry. You will be required to provide the customs office with information about yourself, passengers, and your flight. After arrival at your airport of entry, if there is no customs officer present, immediately contact the Canadian CANPASS office again at the same number and receive an arrival report number or be advised to wait for a customs inspection.

Thanks to an agreement between the FAA and Transport Canada, flying an experimental aircraft into Canada is now easier than ever. All that is needed is the document Standardized Validation of a Special Airworthiness Certificate—Experimental, for the Purpose of Operating a United States-Registered Amateur-Built Aircraft in Canadian Airspace which details the restrictions (minor in nature) applicable in Canadian airspace. Download the form and carry it with the aircraft at all times in Canada.

Flight Operations in Canada

To access weather information and file flight plans while flying in Canada, contact Canadian Flight Service by calling 866/WX-BRIEF (992-7433). This telephone number can only be used within the borders of Canada. More specific flight services and local weather advisories can be obtained by contacting the individual Flight Information Centres within each Canadian province.

For remote areas, take tie-down equipment with you and have your ADF or GPS in good working order. Slot reservations are required for Toronto Pearson International Airport for VFR and IFR aircraft. A Mode C transponder is required when flying into any terminal control area and Class C airspace in Canada. Mode C transponders are also required in some Class D and E airspace, normally associated with some terminal areas and some control zones. The terminal charts (VTAs) and the Canada Flight Supplement provide the details.

Questions? Give AOPA a call. The aviation specialists in AOPA’s Pilot Information Center are here to talk with you Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, 800-USA-AOPA (872-2672). Or email pilotassist@aopa.org.

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.