Recently my wife Lori and I flew to Victoria, BC in our Diamond DA40 just for the day to ride our bicycles. I have flown to Canada almost a dozen times and each time it is different. I will be creating a video and/or putting on a seminar on how to fly in and out of Canada if there is enough interest. Perhaps a flyout would be in order, either just for breakfast/lunch, or maybe an overnighter. The exchange rate is very favorable for us right now. At last check it was $1 CAD = $0.76 USD.
PFCWPA Past President
We departed Paine about lunch time for the approximately 30 minute flight via the Penn Cove VOR. This is almost direct. I usually fly IFR even in good weather just because it simplifies things. Victoria International, CYYJ, can get very busy at times. According to Wikipedia it is the 11th busiest airport in Canada, with over 2 million passengers per year. We landed behind a Dash 8 and were kept at 5,000′ until just a few miles from the runway. There is a lot of jet traffic mixed in with the GA at this airport. After landing we were directed to the designated area to clear customs which is not really a dedicated “box” as found at other airports, but the ramp at Shell Aerocentre. The procedure basically involves a phone call to 1-800-CAN-PASS where if everything goes smoothly (which it always has for me so far) you receive a confirmation number. I don’t even shutdown the engine for this process which only takes a couple minutes. My headset has the Bluetooth feature which helps a lot. Every time I have flown to BC I have never had to meet a Customs agent in person. Only a phone call. I find it humorous that whenever I call nowadays there is a recording that states “even though Cannabis is legal throughout Canada, it is illegal to transport it in our out of the country, but if you have any, make sure and declare it.” After receiving our confirmation number we taxied to Victoria Flying Club to park.
The trail is heavily used by cyclists and pedestrians. We passed by a bicycle counter that displayed live stats. The day we were there, 2,300 cyclists had passed through with well over 200,000 since the beginning of the year. The Lochside is very diverse with both paved and unpaved sections. It travels through neighborhoods and forested areas. Parts are on low traffic roads with a dedicated bike lane and there were multiple bridges and tunnels. Very scenic. At the midpoint of our out and back ride, we had a snack at a café by the name of Caffe Fantastico on suggestion of a friendly cyclist we met on the trail. He just happened to be an aircraft inspector that worked at the airport we had just ridden from. It was a very interesting place with a bakery, coffee shop and bar. I would highly recommend it.
It is only about a 10 minute flight from CYYJ to KCLM. Our flight path took us directly over downtown Victoria and the Harbour which looked beautiful with the sun getting low in the sky by this time. We landed at PA and taxied into the CBP “box”. The agent came out shortly and wanted to see our passports only. Some locations (Bellingham for example) want to see every document on the required list. We departed with a spectacular sunset behind us for the 30 minute flight back to Paine.
The Victoria Flying Club is an impressive facility and has been in operation since 1946. They presently have 10 Cessna 172’s in their fleet which are kept quite busy with flight training. After parking we had lunch at the Dakota Café which is adjacent to VFC. Their signature dish is Wonton soup and is only served a few days a week (MWF). It is big and hearty enough to be considered a meal. We assembled our bikes which fit nicely in the back of the Diamond with the wheels off. Off we went to ride the Lochside Regional Trail to downtown Victoria. CYYJ is located in Saanich, about 20 miles north of Victoria. It is near Sidney where the ferry comes in from Anacortes.
We returned to CYYJ after an approximately 33 mile round trip ride and proceeded to pack up for departure. When departing Victoria VFR you have to file a flight plan and have a squawk code assignment before you even call ground for a taxi clearance. We were going to fly to Anacortes to clear customs even though most people go through Bellingham. If you look at the chart, Bellingham is well North of Victoria so you would be backtracking. Well, it got too late to go to Anacortes so we switched to Port Angeles. The agent at Anacortes told me emphatically that they close down at 8PM and not to arrive 15 minutes before or right at 8. They want to go home on time. There always seems to be some ambiguity in the rules when dealing with US Customs. One agent told me I would have to refile my eApis manifest since our arrival destination had changed. Another told me it didn’t matter because all they need is the passport and passenger information. Another told me it depends which agent you get and some are more “militant” about it.