ALPA Warns Pilots about New Low-Viz Rules in Canada

On April 10, the Association issued ALPA Operations Bulletin 2009-02, “Low/Reduced Visibility Operations at Canadian Airports,” to alert members about new rules governing restrictions on airport surface movements in low-visibility conditions that went into effect at Canadian airports on March 12, 2009. Transport Canada will enforce these rules, which may affect the way you operate.

Canadian airports are now required to publish the level of service they are capable of providing for each runway. Flight crews must ensure that the visibility conditions are at or above the advertised level of service before taxiing.

Air Traffic Services (ATS) personnel will issue a taxi clearance even if conditions are below the required visibility for taxiing. This clearance does not permit taxiing except in accordance with the low- or reduced-visibility airport operations plan. Thus, it is now possible for flight crews to accept a taxi clearance to or from a gate and illegally taxi on the airport surface because of the new regulations.

Pilots who operate on the surface below the advertised visibility service level will be subject to enforcement action.

ALPA has asked Nav Canada to inform pilots that the visibility is below the published limit, though air traffic controllers will not restrict you from taxiing.

Please note that the visibility limits available under the Approach Ban regulations have no direct relationship to the new surface regulations. If visibility deteriorates below the published service level after the aircraft has passed the final approach fix (FAF) inbound on approach, or after the aircraft has begun to taxi for takeoff, operations may continue. However, no aircraft will be legal to push back or continue past the FAF with visibilities lower than the published service level.


1. Lacking any specific guidance from your airline, be aware that taxi visibility limits and runway operation (takeoff and landing) visibility limits may not coincide, in either direction, and that you must check your legality for any phase of operation before accepting any clearance.

2. Follow your standard operating procedures.

3. Confirm the published service level for the airport and runway you intend to use.

4. Familiarize yourself with applicable airline, Nav Canada, and Transport Canada information on the new requirements. For further reference, visit these Internet links to the background documents and regulations: