What a pilot or an air traffic controller means by a particular expression is not necessarily the same on both side of the US-Canada border. Some of them are just quirky, some can pose a real problem, like a Canadian pilot asking around a US airport for an AME.

Cross-border Aviation Terminology

Most southern Canadian controllers are "bilingual" in aviation terminology and it's not uncommon to hear a Canadian controller switch to US terminology when talking to the pilot of a November-registered aircraft.

Canadian term
US term
A defect in an aircraft, such as a broken radio, missing screws or an oil leak. Squawk also means "transmit via transponder" on both sides of the border.
journey log
no close equivalent
Every flight a Canadian airplane makes is recorded in a book that remains with the airplane on all trips. Snags and rectifications are also recorded there.
Unserviceable or inoperative: the abbreviation used when reporting or labelling a broken instrument or system.
VFR Navigation Chart: a 1:500,000 scale aviation map
VFR Terminal Area or Terminal Area Chart: a 1:250,000 scale aviation chart used below 12,500' in the area around certain large airports
Mandatory Frequency or Common Traffic Area Frequency: a radio frequency which all aircraft in the vicinity of an uncontrolled aerodrome are required to monitor and position report on.
Aerodrome Traffic Frequency: in Canada: a radio frequency which all radio-equipped aircraft in the vicinity of an aerodrome are strongly encouraged to monitor and position report on.  A Canadian UNICOM is a ground station, probably the fueller or a flying school.  
FBO frequency
In Canada when we call the UNICOM, we are usually talking about a frequency on which we can call ahead for services.  At a small airport that is the same frequency used by circuit traffic, so we might address the UNICOM for a traffic or wind advisory.  
civil registration
skin letters
tail number
The numbers and/or letters painted on the outside of the aircraft, and by which ATC refers to the aircraft.  US tail numbers start with N and then have 1 to 5 numbers, followed by 0 to 2 letters, to a maximum of six characters, including the first N.  Canadian civil registrations start with C-F or C-G followed by three letters.  Some older Canadian aircraft have their registrations painted with CF- at the beginning.
controlled airport
towered airport
An airport where you are required to call ATC before using their airspace.
uncontrolled airport
non-towered airport
An airport where you broadcast your intentions to other traffic, not to a controller.   
flight school ops manager
In Canada the CFI is the Chief Flight Instructor at any one flying school.
licenced, licence
certificated, certificate
Legally entitled to exercise the specified privileges, the piece of paper that says so
flight instructor
In the US, any "Certificated" Flight Instructor is a CFI.
An additional privilege added to your licence.  In Canada, ratings include night, instrument, seaplane and flight instructor.  In the US flight instructor is a separate grade of licence, and night privileges are included with the private licence. American pilots require endorsements for different activities than Canadian pilots. For example in the US an endorsement is required to tow a banner, or fly an airplane equipped with skis or conventional gear.
no equivalent
The Pilot Training Record is a legal document in which a flight instructor records the training progress of a student.  On completion of the course, the PTR goes into the pilot's permanent file at Transport Canada.
Transport Canada
The federal government authority that oversees aviation. The FAA also hires air traffic controllers.
The rectangular path flown by an aircraft preparing to land at an airport.
circuit altitude
The altitude above sea level that traffic in the circuit/pattern fly ("traffic pattern altitude")
departure leg
upwind leg
The leg of a circuit/pattern flown straight from the runway, immediately after taking off.
Nav Canada

The organization responsible for air traffic control and, in Canada, the distribution of aviation charts.
flight test
A flight taken with an examiner in order to obtain or maintain pilot privileges.  In Canada a checkride is a flight to ensure the safety of a prospective renter, or a stage check during a student's progress.
(Certified) Aviation Medical Examiner: a doctor licenced to perform the medical examination and sign documents required to renew your medical certificate.
Aviation Maintenance Engineer or Airframe & Powerplant: a person licenced to perform maintenance on airplanes.
Canadians know that the official aviation word for nine is niner, but we don't usually say it, unless we're feeling especially pretentions. Americans use it routinely. You're more likely to hear a Canadian controller say "fife" or "tree," which Americans never do.
runway zero one
runway one
Canadians paint and pronounce a leading zero on runways 01, 02, 03 and so on. One Canadian reader wrote to tell me he'd been chewed out by a US tower controller for adding the zero in a readback.
AMO Certified Repair Station
Approved Maintenance Organization: a shop approved by the appropriate regulatory authority (Transport Canada or the FAA) to perform maintenance. In each country, some work may not be done by an independent AME or A&P, but must be done by an employee of an AMO or Certified Repair Station.
no equivalent BFR
American pilots must receive a biannual flight review from a CFI in order to keep their licences valid. Canadians may continue to fly as long as they have received some kind of currency training, usually a seminar, in the last 24 months, and have flown in the last five years. Canadians, however, must renew their instrument ratings every two years with an examiner.
Flight Services
Flight Watch
In Canada FSS personnel give weather briefings, receive PIREPs, receive flight plans and take position reports. In the US, these duties are divided between Flight Services, which looks after flight plans, and Flight Watch which solicits PIREPs and gives en route weather.

Robyn's Flying Start Home

This page written 13 August 2003 by Robyn Stewart. Last updated 29 January 2005.
Copyright 2003-2005 Flying Start Initiatives