Canada will be closed to most U.S. light aircraft within about two years after Transport Canada affirmed its decision to make 406-MHz emergency locator transmitters mandatory on everything but gliders, balloons, ultralights and a handful of special-use aircraft. The requirement extends to all foreign-registered aircraft and includes those used for flights that begin and end in the U.S. but overfly Canadian territory, like the busy routes between the northern Midwest and eastern states, according to an e-mail sent to Canadian Owners and Pilots Association members by President Kevin Psutka last week. “We are at the end of a long battle to bring common sense to this issue,” Psutka wrote. “Common sense has not prevailed.” Psutka attended a meeting with stakeholders on the issue last week. Transport Canada, and the Canadian military, which handles most search and rescue operations in Canada, see the switch as necessary because search and rescue satellites will stop monitoring 121.5 MHz, the frequency used by most existing ELTs, as of Feb. 1, 2009. Of course, Psutka’s main focus has been on the expense and inconvenience (not to mention logistical challenge) of equipping thousands of Canadian GA aircraft with the $1,000 (plus installation) devices. COPA believes better technology is available but being ignored in the rule. But he said the rule will also affect thousands of U.S.-based aircraft owners who plan to fly to Canada. The FAA is not planning to mandate 406-MHz ELTs and it’s doubtful many American owners will voluntarily equip just so they can take a flying vacation in Canada.
Psutka said at least 63,000 foreign-registered light aircraft, 90 percent of them American-registered, touched down in Canada between May of 2007 and May of 2008. Figures for the number of overflights were not available. The new rule is set to take effect on Feb. 1, 2009, but a political crisis involving the current federal government makes implementation on that date unlikely. Transport Canada is planning on phasing in the requirement to allow manufacturers and maintenance facilities time to cope with the onslaught of installations. As the phase-in is now proposed, affected aircraft, including foreign-registered aircraft, will have to be equipped with an approved 406-MHz ELT on Feb. 1, 2011, or during the last annual inspection before that date or it will be illegal for them to fly in Canadian airspace.