"Hello, bonjour. This Is CANPASS.”
It was the day before I intended to fly four of us to Halifax, Nova Scotia, from New England. The phone call to the Canadian Passenger Accelerated Service System (888-CANPASS or 888-226-7277 for those of us with telephone keypad dyslexia) provided a stark contrast to my just-completed wrestling match with eAPIS, our Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Electronic Advance Passenger Information System.
The CANPASS man, based in Hamilton, Ontario, had a succinct list of questions, and he took the information over the phone. He wanted to know:
1. The estimated time of arrival.
2. The aircraft tail number.
3. The full name, date of birth and citizenship of all persons on board.
4. Passport and visa information for passengers and crew.
5. The destination, purpose of the trip and length of stay.
6. The landing point (must be designated airport of entry or CANPASS-only airport).
7. Declaration of goods being imported and any monetary instruments equal to or greater than $10,000 in Canadian dollars, which, sadly, we didn’t have.
When I didn’t know the specific FBO in Halifax, he said I should call back. The whole interaction took about five minutes.
On the other hand, my go at eAPIS took about 40 minutes. I had used the system for a trip to the Bahamas in our Cheyenne about four months prior, and I had carefully kept and protected my sender ID and password on a 3-by-5-inch index card that I had stored in a safe place. With this tattered talisman in hand, I fired up the website and suffered a series of rejections for invalid numbers, letters and exclamation points. Finally, I re-enrolled, waited for the new codes to be sent to my e-mail and then activated the whole shebang with an activation key, which was, of course, case sensitive. This allowed me to enter the names, dates of birth, passport numbers, home addresses and flight information, including the border crossing time and position estimate. Whew.
When I went to file a return report in advance, I couldn’t figure out how to use the manifest I had just loaded and thus had to re-enter all the information for the trip back. I am sure many pilots know how to do this, but I am not among them. Once the return was entered on eAPIS, I called the CANPASS man back to tell him we were headed to the Gateway FBO at Halifax Stanfield International Airport. “Oh, yes,” he said, “you are the one with the two alcohol declarations.” Yes, it was true. I had declared that we were bringing a fifth of gin and an almost empty bottle of vermouth and four martini glasses for our private amusement once we had checked into the bed-and-breakfast in Chester, Nova Scotia.
With the paperwork done, we were set. Fltplan.com made it all easy; not only did the site provide its customary highly accurate time and fuel estimates, but it also served up the Halifax weather and forecasts. The downloaded Canadian coverage for the Avidyne Jeppesen charts and the Garmin 430’s GPSs came close to $400 for one 28-day cycle. This seemed reasonable to me.
Though flight-planned for direct Bangor, Maine (BGR) and then direct to Halifax, we were sent instead to Neets intersection so as to miss the MOA Yankee One. This added two minutes to the trip, according to the Avidyne EX500. Comfortably on top at Flight Level 230, I drank coffee and showed off the Garmin G600 and Avidyne to my friend Rob, who joined me in the right seat.