22 July 2003

Can We Come Home?

After 9/11, crossing international borders had become more complex. Even coming back from Canada was a bit tricky. Any snafu in paperwork or flight planning could cost large fines, confiscation of airplane or even prison time! Minor fouls might at least cause some delays. I thought I had done my homework!Before we took off from Dauphin, Manitoba, I called US customs and had given them my arrival time. I filed a VFR flight plan with Canadian Flight Service. Then we took off. Once airborne, the Canadian controller asked if I had my border crossing transponder code. I told him I had not yet been assigned a code by flight service so I offered to let him assign a code. He said that the code had to come from American air traffic control (ATC). I said OK, I'll call Minneapolis Center. The Canadian controller countered, No you have to get the code on the ground. He then suggested I land at Portsmouth, Manitoba, then get a code from the US on the ground.

I landed Portsmouth, called a US flight service station, filled and new plan and obtained a transponder code. The briefer told me the code was only good for an hour. I figured I could cross the border within an hour. Once airborne, I called US flight service about ten minutes north of the border. They said I needed to acquire a new transponder code in the air from Minneapolis Center. I replied, OK, I just call center directly. For some reason, the FSS briefer did not like that plan. Instead he called Center on the phone. Meanwhile I was flying parallel to the border. It was easily identified by my GPS and the clear cut strip on the ground. Finally FSS got Center's approval of the current transponder code. We flew across the border and clear customs without incident. What an ordeal. I had less trouble flying over Cuba! (April 18, 2004)

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