Overview for Flying to Canada

(Short version)

Border Crossings Planning

  1. Create flight plans for each border crossing to an Airport of Entry:

Canada Airports of Entry: Victoria, Nanaimo, and Abotsford serve well.
US AOEs: Bellingham and Boeing Field serve well. Everett customs can be unfriendly. I've heard mixed things about Friday Harbor.

  1. File the US to Canada flight plan with the US FSS. Try to get a squawk code. Code will probably not be available until you take off and open your flight plan, but ask them anyway. DO NOT CROSS THE BORDER WITHOUT SQUAWKING THIS CODE.
  2. Call 1-888-CAN-PASS to schedule a custom's appointment. You must call between 48 and 2 hours prior to your arrival. You must then arrive with in 15 minutes of your appointment. If your arrival time will change call and update them with the new time.
    Be sure to ask them for their name, station, and the declaration report number. They will not offer this information unless you ask, but it may come in handy for the next step.
  3. File the Canada to US flight plan with Kamloops FSS: 866-541-410. It may be convenient to plan a stop at a convenient airport. I think you can skip this stop and just have Canada FSS change flight plans.
  4. Call your custom's office of choice to schedule an appointment for the return. Provide:
    1. Type of Aircraft
    2. Commander's name
    3. Foreign point of departure
    4. Airport of arrival and ICAO designation
    5. Number of passengers who are US citizens
    6. Number of alien passengers
    7. Estimated time of arrival
      Site Phone
      Bellingham 360-734-5463
      Friday Harbor  
      Boeing Field  
  5. Print a US Custom's form.
  6. Make sure that you have your pilot certificate and medical.
  7. Make sure that everyone flying has proof of citizenship and any other documents they need to cross the boarder.

Flying US to Canada

  1. Open your Flight plan with US FSS. Ask for a boarder crossing transponder code.
  2. Before entering Canadian airspace, contact Canadian ATC. (On my first crossing I got flight following from Whidbey. They terminated service just before I got to the boarder. Next time I will ask them for a handoff when I got to the boarder.)
  3. At your destination taxi to Customs. (Ask tower if unsure.) Park the plane and enter the building. If the agents are not present find a phone and call 1-888-CAN-PASS for directions.

Flying Canada to US

  1. Open your Flight plan with Canadian Kamloops FSS (Pacific Radio on 126.7).
  2. Contact Canadian ATC before crossing the boarder. Doing this around Nanaimo (or north of entering the Vancouver/Victoria controlled airspace) for flight following and a boarder crossing transponder code. Canadian ATC calls these "codes" and are generous about handing them out.
  3. Squawk your assigned code until you have landed at your destination.
  4. At the destination taxi to Customs. Locate the Red Box (painted on ramp) and park in it and wait for the custom agents. Do not leave the Red Box. Have your customs form, pilot documentation, and personal documentation ready.

Flying In Canada

Here's a brief overview of what I understand of flying in Canada

  1. Landing at Comox requires PPR, it says so right on page 158 of the current VFR Flight Supplement.
  2. Courtenay is a friendly little GA airport right by Comox.
  3. "Code" means Squawk Code. They are more commonly used in Canada, but are not required.
  4. The charts do not provide enough information. The flight Supplement is necessary.
  5. Canadian ATC always wants to know where you are coming from and where you are going. Destinations which are not airports (like Vargas island) don't seem to confuse them. My conclusion is that it is better to be factual (and in agreement with your flight plan) than to make up something along the route. (By contrast, US authorities are often confused by non-airport destinations and naming a near by airport often saves explaining.)
  6. Contact Kamloops FSS (Pacific Radio on 126.7) for flight plan. Flight plans are automatically opened at the stated time and must be closed by the pilot when done. Better to give a late estimate and call to open early than an early estimate and be late.
  7. Don't forget to close your flight plan, the tower no longer automatically closes it for you.
  8. You can call any ATC along the way to give a position report, which will narrow the area of search, should you be so unfortunate.
  9. For transition through the complex airspace between Vancouver and Victoria call Vancouver or Victoria Terminal. Frequencies and altitudes are given on the Vancouver terminal area chart.
  10. Towered airports use Tower frequencies. There may be multiple, have them dialed into the radio, you will be told which to switch to.
  11. Controlled, non-towered airports use a Mandatory frequency. This is addressed to "<airport> radio". You can also get ATC services on these frequencies such as squawk codes and make position reports. They may not have radar.
  12. Uncontrolled airports have a traffic frequency.

Flying into Victoria

  1. Call 1-888-987-2633 (YVR-CODE) to get a squawk code for arrival and departure no more than 2 hours in advance. It is unclear how this relates to the boarder crossing code. Maybe you can use the boarder crossing code all the way to the ground. Maybe you can call squawk this code and contact Victoria Terminal before crossing. Maybe you need both. Check on next call.
  2. On departure call Victoria clearance first. If you have a departure code state your code. If not, can you get one from them?
  3. Next call ground for taxi.
  4. Next call inner tower for take off. I was cleared to 1000 ft then right turn and contact outer tower.
  5. Outer tower cleared me to 2500 then contact Victoria terminal.