Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Canada By PC-12

A Pilatus adventure across the border

Lessons Learned
On flights home to the U.S. from Mexico, I had gotten used to calling a U.S. flight service station to update our time of arrival at our port of entry. When we tried to do the same thing for our arrival in Canada, we got a rather grumpy reaction and were told that while they'd do it, time permitting, instrument pilots are expected to calculate their arrival time and call Customs before departure. They also asked us for the Customs phone number at Saskatoon, which I was able to look up in ForeFlight.

While you can file an international flight plan using DUATS from the U.S. to Canada, don't try to use DUATS for a domestic flight within Canada. Larry did that for our leg from Saskatoon to Lloydminster and saw no errors, but when I called for a weather briefing and attempted to update our departure time, Canadian flight service had no record of the flight. Nav Canada has a computer-based system equivalent to DUATS, which may be worth registering for if you plan an extended stay in the country, but for a brief excursion, I recommend getting telephone brief-ings (the number inside Canada is 1 (866) WX-BRIEF, from the U.S. you'll have to call one of the Flight Information Centers directly—see the Nav Canada link at the end of this article) and filing by phone.

The airplane we were flying is equipped with XM satellite weather but didn't display any XM products north of the border—evidently, we had a U.S.-only subscription, which neither of us thought would be an issue. We did get Canadian databases for our two Garmin GPS navigators. Also, while my AT&T cell phone worked fine in Canada (I had called to enable international service) my iPad's AT&T cellular service didn't. A DeLorme inReach satellite messaging device I was testing did work, which turned out to be invaluable on our way home (see the article next month).

While English is the universal language for air traffic control, we did notice some interesting differences between Canada and the U.S.:
Instead of "descend pilot's discretion to" an altitude, a Canadian controller said: "When ready, descend to..."
Instead of "Radar contact," they said "Radar identified."
Instead of "Radar service terminated," they said "Radar service will now terminate."

Lloydminster turned out to be a special case—it has a flight service station on the field, and while the specialist stationed there isn't an air traffic controller, he answers as "Lloyd radio" when you call in, and can offer clearances of the form "ATC clears…" He also must be one of the most bored people employed by Nav Canada. While CYLL advertises itself as "Canada's Border City," it was dead as a doornail both times we were there.


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