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Crossing the Border into Canada

By John Gressett, EAA 1205014, and Allen Lindh, EAA 740843

November 2016

These two gentlemen sat through my talk on border crossing at AirVenture this year, completed trips into Canada, and were willing to give feedback from the American perspective. Thanks to both. I’m sure all of our readers will find your comments useful and interesting. — Ed.

John Gressett, Trip to Churchill, Manitoba

Very little drama during the border crossings. Entering Canada, most people just called and got a number. My plane was special since we were greeted by two Canadian border people at the fixed base operation (FBO) in Winnipeg. They asked for our passports and then asked to see the bear spray we brought along in case we needed to pull the chute for the plane. The pilot in command (PIC) found it in the bag all sealed up just like he got it from the store. The official said “Oh, that is perfectly okay.” He then gave us a slip of paper with a number, and we were done. After we thought about it during the trip to Churchill, the only thing we can think of is that, of the 10 planes that travelled up, we were the only one to declare bear spray. Not sure if this is the reason we were selected for inspection or not. All other questions seemed perfectly routine.

ATC was a little strange to us for the approach into Churchill. Centre cleared us for the approach but left us at 4,000 feet. We wanted to start our descent but were not yet established. Centre had already passed us to Churchill Radio, whom we asked for lower. Radio then asked us what did Centre say. It became clear after we landed that Radio must be unable to give us clearances. Not a huge deal. But this was very awkward since I did not understand what Radio could do for us and what they were unable to do for us. In the United States we used to have radio (15 years ago?) after the tower went to sleep. Today the flight service station (or radio) does not exist any longer at just about any airport in the United States (except for Alaska). Perhaps this could be an entertaining difference between Canada and U.S. flight operations during your talk. (We’ll add that to the Oshkosh presentation for next year. — Ed)

Coming back to the United States ... called them before we left Canada. Went to Grand Forks. Could not believe how fast and nice the U.S. Customs person was. It was as if he were racing to get us processed. Super friendly. Asked all the normal questions. Did not make us unload our plane. If you want to recommend a U.S. port-of-entry, I highly recommend Grand Forks ... it was that good.

Allen Lindh – Border Crossings in Float Planes

My comments would purely relate to crossing as a U.S. citizen, and along the border from Michigan west.

As you know, as an example, there is a lot of water in some of the border areas such as Michigan and Minnesota (not to mention New York, Ohio, etc.). There are many seaplanes that cross and go north for fishing or other recreational purposes. That is an area of interest for many of us.

As an example: flying a seaplane across the border.

I crossed from Minnesota this summer in a seaplane and the customs can be handled at customs docks used for both boats and seaplanes.

One of the unique things about that is, entering Canada from the United States, one can actually land on the U.S. side of the water and taxi across into Canada and enter as a “boat.” That obviates the necessity to file a flight plan for Canada entry … believe it or not. Odd, but legal!

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to enter the United States from Canada. A manifest from the Electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS) is required, and as long as that is going to be on record, a flight plan smooths the way!

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