No person shall operate an aircraft
When you get in your small airplane in Canada to go flying there are a bunch of requirements that it has to meet in order for the flight to be legal. The rules are scattered through the Canadian Aviation Regulations, so I thought it might be useful to gather together as many of them as I can find. This is not a complete list, but it’s all the important ones that I can find.
Where I’ve quoted from the regulations I’ve taken the liberty of shortening or eliding them to make it easier to follow their general intent. Obviously if you want to see what the full regulation says each time, you’ll find them here:
I also want to add a disclaimer: I’m a flight instructor and possibly even your flight instructor, but I’m definitely not your lawyer. While what you read here is my best understanding of the rules, if you misunderstand me or I’ve misunderstood them and you get into trouble as a result, it’s your fault, not mine.
02.26 No person shall operate an aircraft in Canada ... or a Canadian aircraft outside Canada unless the certificate of registration issued in respect of the aircraft is carried on board the aircraft.
You have to have a certificate of registration on board your aircraft to “operate” it. That certificate could be a provisional, certificate, a temporary certificate or (what most of us have is) a continuing certificate.
The regulations don’t say what to operate an aircraft means – without a certificate of registration, can you tow it? switch on the master switch? start the engines? taxi? – but you definitely can’t fly.
606.02(9) Subject to subsection (10), no owner or operator of an aircraft shall operate the aircraft unless there is carried on board the aircraft proof that liability insurance is subscribed for in accordance with this section.
Regulation 606.02 describes the amount of insurance cover that an aircraft has to carry; it’s quite a long section and the answer depends on the weight of the aircraft, the number of passenger seats and the kind of operations the aircraft is used for. But you always have to have a proof of insurance on board.
605.03 (1) No person shall operate an aircraft in flight unless
(a) a flight authority is in effect in respect of the aircraft;
(b) the aircraft is operated in accordance with the conditions set out in the flight authority; and
(c) ...the flight authority is carried on board the aircraft.
For most of us the flight authority exists in the form of a (continuing) certificate of airworthiness. There are other flight authorities you could have: a special certificate of airworthiness or a flight permit – but the C of A is the one that lets you fly the aircraft anywhere in the world and has no time limit.
A continuing C of A remains in force while the conditions under which is issued are met, and those conditions are threefold (regulation 507.02): that the type design is certified, that the aircraft conforms to its type design, and that it is safe for flight.
If the type design weren’t certified then a C of A wouldn’t have been issued in the first place, so that condition is not one that you are likely to have to worry about.
As for the second condition: conformity to type design: the Transport Appeal Tribunal of Canada (the body to which you can appeal if Transport Canada issues you a fine for breaking a regulation) has held that when considering whether an aircraft conforms to its type design, the definition of type design (itself included in CAR101) is quite narrowly defined. If you modify an aircraft in a way that goes counter to any of the details in the Type Certificate Data Sheet, by fitting a different engine for example – then it no longer conforms to its type design. If you break any of the government-approved limitations listed in the flight manual (such as by flying over gross weight) then it’s arguably not in conformity with its type design. Note also the requirement to comply with limitations in the flight manual is also codified in CAR 602.07.
Whether the aircraft is safe for flight is a day-to-day decision based on its physical condition. If an important part of the airplane is broken it can still conform to its type design but may not be in a safe state for flight.
If those conditions are met, then by carrying the C of A on board you have met the requirement for a flight authority.
Aircraft identification plate
201.01 (1) Except for an aircraft that is operated pursuant to an authorization issued under subsection 202.14(1), no person shall operate an aircraft in flight unless there is an aircraft identification plate attached to the aircraft in accordance with this Subpart.
Your aircraft identification plate is a small metal part stamped with the type and serial number. It has to be somewhere where it’s visible to someone on the ground or at the main entrance door, or rearmost entrance. For a small plane that means it could be almost anywhere. For example, on the Grob it’s on the right side of the tail, on single-engine Cessnas you’ll find it on the pilot doorpost, and on the Decathlon it’s on the roof of the cabin.
Per CAR 201.05, every engine, propeller and life-limited part also has to have its own identification plate too. To be fair, these are not likely to change on a day to day basis so you probably don’t need to check them before each flight.
202.01 (1) Subject to subsection (2), no person shall operate an aircraft in Canada unless its marks are visible and are displayed...
Your aircraft registration needs to be displayed on the airplane in the appropriate places, at the right sizes. Again, not something you have to check on a day-to-day basis.
Operational and emergency equipment
602.58 No person shall operate a [Canadian] aircraft ... unless the operational and emergency equipment required by these Regulations is carried on board.
The equipment has to be functional, and meet the relevant standards. The equipment required depends on the type of aircraft, the type of operation (VFR/IFR, day or night) and whether it’s a commercial (Part VII) or private operation, as well as where (geographically) it’s going to be flying. The things you need include checklists and/or placards, charts (at night or for IFR flight), a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, a time piece, survival equipment, life preservers and flotation devices (for flight over water) a flightlight for each pilot (at night).
602.88(2) No pilot-in-command of an aircraft shall commence a flight or, during flight, change the destination aerodrome set out in the flight plan or flight itinerary, unless the aircraft carries sufficient fuel to ensure compliance with subsections (3) to (5).
The fuel requirements for a day VFR flight include to be able to fly to the destination aerodrome and then to fly for a period of 30 minutes at normal cruising speed, but you also need:
an amount of fuel that is sufficient to provide forso you might actually need more than 30 minutes of reserve fuel.
(a) taxiing and foreseeable delays prior to take-off;
(b) meteorological conditions;
(c) foreseeable air traffic routings and traffic delays;
(d) landing at a suitable aerodrome in the event of loss of cabin pressurization or, in the case of a multi-engined aircraft, failure of any engine, at the most critical point during the flight; and
(e) any other foreseeable conditions that could delay the landing of the aircraft.
605.04 (1) No person shall conduct a take-off in an aircraft, for which an aircraft flight manual is required by the applicable standards of airworthiness, unless the aircraft flight manual or, if an aircraft operating manual has been established under section 604.37 or Part VII, the aircraft operating manual is available to the flight crew members at their duty stations.
Some aircraft need a flight manual, and some don’t. When the regulations refer to “applicable standards of airworthiness” they are referring to the standard of airworthiness that’s given in the Type Certificate Data Sheet for the aircraft. When certification for an aircraft type is given it indicates that the design meets the airworthiness requirements at that date. Airworthiness requirements usually get tighter as time goes on as more regulations are added. Most small airplanes in Canada have as their airworthiness standard the US Civil Air Regulation 3 (CAR3) or Federal Aviation Regulation 23 (FAR23) depending on the date the design was certified. The requirement for an airplane to have a Flight Manual appears to have been added some time in the late 1970’s: airplanes certified before that came equipped with a Pilot Operating Handbook; those that were certified after had a document called a Flight Manual.
Markings and placards
605.05 No person shall conduct a take-off in an aircraft in respect of which markings or placards are required by the applicable standards of airworthiness unless the markings or placards are affixed to the aircraft or attached to a component of the aircraft in accordance with those standards.
This section also refers to applicable standards of airworthiness: hopefully the aircraft manufacturer has details in the pilot handbook or flight manual about which placards are required; if any of them are missing then you can’t fly.
605.06 No person shall conduct a take-off in an aircraft, or permit another person to conduct a take-off in an aircraft in their custody and control, unless the aircraft equipment required by these Regulations
(a) meets the applicable standards of airworthiness; and
(b) is serviceable and, where required by operational circumstances, functioning, except if otherwise provided in section 605.08, 605.09 or 605.10.
This one needs a bit of unpicking. The equipment that is “required by these regulations” includes the stuff listed in 605.14 and includes (for day VFR flight) altimeter, airspeed indicator, oil temperature and pressure gauges, tachometer, fuel gauges, and (for flight where airspace requires it) radio equipment. These things definitely need to be working for you to be able to fly.
Regulation 605.09 is for aircraft with an approved Minimum Equipment List (MEL) – which is not most small planes, and 605.10 is for aircraft without a MEL.
605.10 says you can take off in an airplane with unserviceable equipment as long as it isn’t included in any of the following:
(a) the standards of airworthiness that apply to day or night VFR or IFR flight, as applicable;
(b) any equipment list published by the aircraft manufacturer respecting aircraft equipment that is required for the intended flight;
(d) an airworthiness directive; or
(e) these Regulations.
It goes on to say that any such unserviceable equipment has to be removed, or isolated or secured so as not to be a hazard, placarded, and an entry made in the aircraft journey log to that effect.
Emergency Locator Transmitter
605.38 (1) Subject to subsection (3), no person shall operate an aircraft unless it is equipped with one or more ELTs in accordance with subsection (2).
You are allowed to remove your ELT for servicing if when you take it out you send it for repair, and install a placard on the panel saying it has been removed and giving the date of removal. You have to put it back within 30 days.
Airworthiness Directives and limitations
605.84 (1) Subject to subsections (3) and (4), no person shall conduct a take-off ... unless the aircraft
(a) is maintained in accordance with any airworthiness limitations applicable to the aircraft type design;
(b) meets the requirements of any airworthiness directive issued under section 521.427; and...
Airworthiness limitations are typically specified in the Maintenance Manual for the aircraft: they include things like flight hour and number of cycle or takeoff/landing limits. Airworthiness directives are issued to correct what are perceived to be dangerous situations for specific aircraft types, and each AD will have a time limit within which compliance is mandatory. Some AD’s require repetitive inspection for compliance. One that applies to many small aircraft in Canada is AD CF90-03R2, which applies to aircraft whose cabin heat is provided by passing air over the exhaust system. The inspection involves making sure that the exhaust gases can’t pass through any cracks or holes into the cabin where the carbon monoxide in the gases could poison the passengers and crew. This inspection needs to be repeated at intervals of not more than 12 months or 150 hours. If you’re not up to date on all the AD’s that apply to your airplane, you can’t fly.
605.86 (1) Subject to subsection (3), no person shall conduct a take-off in an aircraft, or permit a take-off to be conducted in an aircraft that is in the person’s legal custody and control, unless the aircraft is maintained in accordance with
(a) a maintenance schedule that conforms to the Aircraft Equipment and Maintenance Standards; and...
Small private aircraft are able to use the maintenance schedule detailed in CAR Standard 625 Appendices B and C. Appendix B gives a list of items that need inspection at not more than 12 month intervals (hence the requirement for an “annual” inspection) and Appendix C lists tasks that need doing at other intervals, such as checking the altimeter (24 months), ELT (annually), calibrating the magnetic compass (12 months), propeller (every 5 years for a fixed pitch prop) and so forth.
605.85 (1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), no person shall conduct a take-off in an aircraft ... where that aircraft has undergone maintenance, unless the maintenance has been certified by the signing of a maintenance release pursuant to section 571.10.
When your aircraft has undergone maintenance it needs a certified aircraft mechanic to sign that the maintenance has been conducted according to the required standards. What counts as maintenance? The answer is in CAR 101:
maintenance means the overhaul, repair, required inspection or modification of an aeronautical product, or the removal of a component from or its installation on an aeronautical product, but does not include (a) elementary work, (b) servicing, or [work done by the manufacturer before a C of A is issued]
Note that as far as inspection is concerned, it’s only required inspection that counts. You can ask an AME to have a look at something, and as long as they don’t remove it, and as long as inspecting it isn’t part of an AD or required by your maintenance schedule, then they don’t need to sign a release before you can fly.
So, if your aircraft has just come back from repair, make sure that there is a release entered in the Journey Log before you fly.
605.95 (1) Subject to subsection (2), no person shall conduct a take-off in an aircraft unless the journey log is on board the aircraft.
(2) A person may conduct a take-off in an aircraft without carrying the journey log on board where
(a) it is not planned that the aircraft will land and shut down at any location other than the point of departure; or
The journey log is the book in which all flights are logged. If you plan to fly to another airport and shut down the airplane there you would have to enter that flight in the journey log before you can fly back again. So it makes sense that you should have to have the journey log with you. If you’re planning to return to your point of departure you can leave the journey log there and enter the flight when you get back.
So there you have it – a very quick tour through the regulations that place positive obligations on your airplane before you can legally fly it. I haven’t written about having the right licence and ratings, or a medical certificate, or meeting the recency requirements for pilots, because those apply to you as a pilot and not the airplane in which you want to fly – we’ll save those for another time.