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Cross Border procedures US & Canada

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MikePousson

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I've always wondered how a pilot handled cross country flight planning when it involved crossing the US-Canadian border. Does one have to have a NEXUS clearance. Flying into small airports that have a customs agent there is probably non existent. Since flying into Class 3 airspace near the border, where there is probably a customs office, is not allowed by the SP certification, what are the procedures.
thanks
Mike
 

TFF

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Always best to pick airports with Customs. Canada to US is harder than US to Canada. I believe if you stop where there is no Customs, you must phone them and either they will come out or tell you to fly to a Customs airport.
 

bmcj

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My understanding is that (I'm sure, depending on destination in Canada) Canadian customs will give you a list of required survival equipment which you must carry in your plane (including a firearm for protection against wildlife if you go down in the bush).
 

Tiger Tim

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To fly into the U.S. you'll need to file an APIS which can now only be done online. I strongly recommend getting everything ready to go the night before because the first time you do it will take a while. If memory serves you need to buy a customs sticker for your plane but I forget if you buy it online before completing the APIS or if customs will sell you one on arrival. For U.S. airports of entry I usually look up the list on CBP.gov and keep the phone number handy. The day of the trip you need to have everything filed at least an hour before departure (I think? Maybe it was two hours). It's not officially part of the procedure but I always call customs before departure to make sure everything got sent through, it's saved me a couple times.

I've only gone IFR across the border but I believe under all circumstances you need to be in contact with ATC, on a filed flight plan, and on an assigned transponder code. I know guys who have flown NORDO into the U.S. but I'm pretty sure they were in formation with a properly equipped aircraft, making them a "+1" on the flight plan. If going VFR, I would probably just pick up flight following. When you land in the U.S. do not (DO NOT!) get out of the airplane unless you enjoy being shot. Many CBP officers take their roles very seriously so stay put until they give you permission to exit the aircraft. I find it also helps to take my sunglasses off to speak to them. They'll ask you to do that no matter what but doing it without prompting (especially if they see you take them off) greases the wheels of the whole process. They'll ask to see your license (they may call it a pilot or airman's certificate) and everyone's passports then you'll be good to go.

To return to Canada, you need to call 1-888-CANPASS to file back in. I think they need two hours notice prior to arrival in Canada and they will ask you for birth dates and passport numbers for everyone on board so have all the passports in your hand when you call. Canpass will also only speak to the PIC of the flight. Also, during peak hours (holiday weekends after about 10am especially) be prepared to be on hold for a very long time. I often ask the Canpass folks where they want me to park at my Canadian airport of entry, or work out where customs can find me. On landing in Canada, either customs officers will be waiting for you or they won't. They can't tell you in advance which it will be for obvious reasons. If nobody's there, call 1-888-CANPASS to report on the ground and they'll ask you the usual customs questions before releasing you, or they'll just tell you to sit tight and wait for customs. If you don't have a cell phone, you're allowed (just the PIC) to get out of the airplane and go to a phone. Get a badge number or clearing number or whatever they give you and I recommend writing it in the journey log so just in case they lose your paperwork you have some kind of proof that you didn't just sneak into the country.

Of course, check the laws and such before just taking my word for it. I've always found customs agents to be nice to me if I'm nice to them so I try to ensure everything is in order through lots of questions. The first time you do his it's going to seem like more trouble than it's worth but from the second time onwards it's easy as you know what to expect.

Hope that helps.
 

MikePousson

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Thanks a lot. In CA you can apply for a Canpass. They to he whole routine. Fingerprints, pics, background check. They get to know you pretty good. It's $50 ?? For 5 years when issued. Every person in plane must have one plus the typical passport or permanent resident card. They ask all pertanent things about Goods, firearms etc. you give an eta at a certain airport. If you arrive at that time and no customs agent. Just call later that you are back in the country.
Toronto island airport has flights to NY so that might have a pre custom clearance that all can be done there. It is not a class 3 airspace. That would simplify things
 

Tiger Tim

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I may have misunderstood something here Mike. Your location makes you look Canadian but it sounds like you're asking about an American flying in, in which case my advice above may not be correct. If a Sport Pilot wants to fly in to Canada, he'd be best to contact a school with lots of SP experience near the border. I imagine they would be the best friendly source of recent information.
 

SVSUSteve

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I imagine they would be the best friendly source of recent information.
I'd vote for just calling customs and getting their input because if something comes up it will make your actions more defensible. As for friendlier, I deal with customs A LOT and bring in some stuff that raises eyebrows (example: ever try bringing a brain and spinal cord in a jar of formaldehyde into the country?). Unless you give them a reason to be dicks- such as having an "I hate the government" viewpoint and being stupid enough to express it in that setting- they are often some of the nicest folks out there. Much nicer than a lot of FBOs (*cough* Atlantic *cough* $ignature *cough*) and flight schools if they get the sense you won't be buying anything from them.
 
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MikePousson

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I may have misunderstood something here Mike. Your location makes you look Canadian but it sounds like you're asking about an American flying in, in which case my advice above may not be correct. If a Sport Pilot wants to fly in to Canada, he'd be best to contact a school with lots of SP experience near the border. I imagine they would be the best friendly source of recent information.
I am an American holding a US Passport, but also a Permanent Resident of Canada holding a Permanent Resident card from Canada. I was asking, not as American or Canadian, but as an air traveler in a private plane. I didn't want to venture in US airspace as lead plane in a squadron of F18s. It seem a lot trickier to fly from north to south than south to north. I'll go to the APIS webpage and also call CBP before attempting it.
 

MikePousson

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I'd vote for just calling customs and getting their input because if something comes up it will make your actions more defensible. As for friendlier, I deal with customs A LOT and bring in some stuff that raises eyebrows (example: ever trying bringing a brain and spinal cord in a jar of formaldehyde into the country?). Unless you give them a reason to be dicks- such as having an "I hate the government" viewpoint and being stupid enough to express it in that setting- they are often some of the nicest folks out there. Much nicer than a lot of FBOs (*cough* Atlantic *cough* $ignature *cough*) and flight schools if they get the sense you won't be buying anything from them.
I hear ya. When driving across, I'm all yes sir and no sir with a big smile on my face. I do not want to agitate those folks on either side of the fence.
 

Aviator168

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What a headache flying across board. Think I am just going to avoid it, and beside, there are plenty of places to fly in the US.
Talking about the custom agents. Last time I came back from Canada with at least 20 bottle of alcohol (I do have quite a few friends to gift to), the guys just looked at my receipt and didn't bother to tax me.
 

TFF

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Make sure you have a radio license. US gave it up if staying in the US but required to have if flying abroad.
 

Turd Ferguson

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My understanding is that (I'm sure, depending on destination in Canada) Canadian customs will give you a list of required survival equipment which you must carry in your plane (including a firearm for protection against wildlife if you go down in the bush).
You can carry a firearm across the border into Canada? Certainly can't do it at the highway border checkpoint!!
 

MikePousson

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How would this all work if you tow (or drive) your plane across the boarder, can you still fly it?
That's probably the simplest solution heading south. As long as you have the paperwork showing ownership, it'd be no different than hauling a camper thru border crossings. But the idea of cross country is the trip itself and not the destination.
 
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