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See North America: How To Fly Into Canada For Vacation

North America offers a vast and varied landscape for pilots to explore. Flying into Canada, with its expansive wilderness areas, upscale cosmopolitan cities and unique cultural vibe, is a place where excitement awaits the adventurous traveler. From Rocky Mountain majesty to the charming streets of Quebec and everywhere in between, there is no shortage of incredible sights to discover in Canada. However, before embarking on a cross-border flight, you should be aware of the regulations and procedures involved in flying into this splendid country. 

If you’re thinking of making the trip north, here’s everything you need to know about flying into Canada as a private pilot, including customs and immigration requirements, necessary documents, aircraft regulations, and other tips for planning your trip. So if you’re ready to take your flying adventures to new heights, keep reading to learn more!

What You Need To Fly Into Canada On A Private Plane

As a private pilot, flying into another country like Canada requires proper preparation and documentation. Making sure that you gather all the necessary documents and permits can make your trip much smoother so you can enjoy your time in this exciting country. With that said, here are some of the essential things you need when flying into and out of Canada from the U.S.

Pilot Documents

To fly into Canada, the pilot in command must have a valid passport, a pilot certificate with an English proficient endorsement, a medical certificate and a restricted radiotelephone operator’s permit. 

You’ll need both US and Canadian charts for your flight, and all flights from Canada to a foreign state, like the US, must be detailed in a flight plan. Be sure to check the Canadian Aviation Regulations (SOR/96-433) for details on filing a flight plan.

If you’re flying from another country and plan to overfly or land in Canada, you’ll need to obtain the necessary permits from Transport Canada. You may need one or all of the necessary permits, including Air Traffic Rights, Overflight, and Landing Permits.

Aircraft Documents

All US registered aircraft must have a valid airworthiness certificate, a permanent registration certificate, a radio station license, operating limitations information, weight and balance information, and an ID data plate. Additionally, if the aircraft is registered in another person’s or corporation’s name, it’s recommended to bring a notarized letter authorizing the use of the aircraft in Canada. 

You’ll need a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decal affixed to the window of your aircraft. You can purchase a decal directly from the government here.

In addition, you’ll need to verify your insurance coverage for flying into Canada. Private aircraft must have liability insurance, and proof of liability coverage needs to be carried onboard. The amount and types of coverage depend on the aircraft’s gross takeoff weight, and all amounts are in Canadian currency.

Passenger Documents

If you’re bringing along family members, friends, colleagues or anyone else, you’ll also need to make sure they have all the appropriate documentation. Your passengers must have a valid passport, and if a child is traveling with only one parent, they must have a notarized statement of approval from the absent parent, stating the dates of the trip. You will also need to declare any pets or animals aboard. As of this year, Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is not required and neither is pre-board testing.

Working With eAPAIS & CANPASS

eAPIS stands for Electronic Advance Passenger Information System. It is a system used by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to collect and process biographic, travel and cargo information from people flying to or from the United States. All pilots crossing the U.S. border are required to use eAPIS to provide information about the aircraft, passengers, crew, and trip at least one hour before departing from or arriving in the United States. However, pilots can file this information as far in advance as they wish, even before leaving home. 

The pilot will need to contact CANPASS by phone (888) 226-7277 or (204) 983-3500, before taking off in America and after landing in Canada. You’ll be provided with a unique identification number that you then can relay to the operator upon landing. As an U.S. citizen traveling to Canada, you likely won’t experience much hassle with immigration and customs, as long as you follow the rules. If you frequently travel to Canada from the United States you can also consider the CANPASS Private Aircraft program, which makes the process easier. 


CANPASS is a program offered by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) that allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers to expedite their clearance process when entering Canada. Under CANPASS there are several different programs, including for Private Aircraft, which makes it easier for planes carrying no more than 15 people to clear customs. To participate in CANPASS, you’ll first need to apply, be approved, and follow the program rules and guidelines.

Upon returning to the U.S., pilots must land at a Designated International Landing Rights and User Fee Airport and notify the customs office at the U.S. destination airport of their ETA. An ICAO flight plan is required if the flight will enter international airspace, and the use of ADS-B antennas will be phased in starting in 2023 for Class-A airspace and 2024 for Class B airspace. With this, you’ll need to pay a NAVCAN fee of $72/yr. (CDN$) for use of the ATC system.

What To Expect When Flying To Canada

Crossing the U.S.-Canadian border for the first time as a private pilot might seem like a big task to take on, but traveling the world is one of the best aspects of becoming licensed, so you might as well take advantage! And maneuvering the regulations and requirements before departing the U.S. will help you avoid any complications or issues upon arrival and make your trip go off hassle free.

The Canadian government requires all pilots crossing the U.S.-Canada border to be in communication with Air Traffic Control (ATC) via a discrete squawk code. This means that pilots must have a two-way communication device, such as a radio, and a transponder that will allow ATC to identify their aircraft’s location.

All aircraft must also be on an activated Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), Visual Flight Rules (VFR), or Defense VFR if flying through the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) from Alaska. It is important to note that the Defense VFR can only be used by military aircraft or authorized law enforcement.

Another requirement is that all aircraft must make their first landing at a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) airport of entry. This allows pilots to go through customs and immigration before continuing on their journey within Canada.

To validate your U.S. flight authority certificate, you will need to provide several documents, including a copy of the flight authority, operating limitations to the flight authority, registration details, proof of insurance, itinerary of flights and a $100.00 fee payment. It is important to note that the request for validation of a foreign flight authority, and all supporting materials, should be sent to a Civil Aviation Safety Inspector – Airworthiness (CASI-A) in the region that the aircraft will be entering.

Flying In Canada

So, you’ve made it across the border, now what should you expect? First, Canada is vast, many regions very remote with no human population. As such, it’s important to know about weather and communication. To access weather information and file flight plans in Canada, you can contact the Canadian Flight Service by dialing 866/WX-BRIEF (992-7433) while within Canada. You can also reach out to individual Flight Information Centres within each province for more specific flight services and local weather advisories.

For remote areas, it’s recommended to bring tiedown equipment and ensure your DME/ADF or GPS is in good working order. Additionally, slot reservations are required for VFR and IFR aircraft at Toronto Pearson International Airport. When flying into any terminal control area and Class C airspace in Canada, a Mode C transponder is required. Some Class D and E airspace may also require a Mode C transponder, which can be found on terminal charts (VTAs) and the Canada Flight Supplement.

Returning To The United States From Canada

After an unforgettable trip traveling to Canada, you’ll need to figure out your return trip (unless you’ve found the country so appealing that you never want to leave!). Flying back to the U.S. as a private pilot also requires you to take a few steps to ensure a hassle-free experience. First, you must land at a U.S. CBP airport of entry, and pilots must file an eAPIS arrival manifest, unless they have filed for both legs of the trip before leaving the U.S. 

It’s also essential to file and activate a VFR or IFR flight plan, and be in communication with ATC while crossing the U.S. border on a discrete squawk code. Additionally, it’s mandatory to call the U.S. CBP between one to 23 hours before the planned U.S. arrival. By following these requirements, private pilots can return to the U.S. smoothly and cherish the memories they made on their trip.

Have Fun Exploring Canada!

Embarking on your first flight into Canada as a private pilot is an exciting opportunity to explore a new country and experience its beauty from a unique perspective. However, before taking off, it’s crucial that you have all the necessary documentation and comply with the regulations to avoid any complications during your trip.

If you’re looking to obtain a private pilot license so you can fly to Canada, Mexico or any other country, Inflight Pilot Training can help you take to the skies. Our highly skilled and certified flight instructors can help you achieve the right rating or certification so you can make your travel goals a reality. All it takes is a call to our team to get started with the pilot training process.

For additional information on Inflight training programs, contact us today or call (952) 698-3000.