Q&A: Planning Ahead for Cooling a Larger Cabin During Another Hot Summer

January 2016

Hi Steve,

I’d like some ideas for cooling off the cabin of my airplane because I don’t want to again go through anything like last summer. I live in the Southwestern United States, and as you know, the temperatures can top 100 degrees here during the heat of the summer.

My airplane is hangared and while the cabin is not scalding when I get in it, it doesn’t take long once I move it out of the hangar before some surfaces in the cabin are too hot to touch.

My wife and I fly a 1972 Cessna 310Q around the western half of the U.S. most of the time. We don’t load it heavily; usually it’s just the two of us, “prop-setting” around to visit our grandkids that live in California, Wyoming and Texas.

We are both experienced pilots and are very comfortable with the little hassles of using an oxygen system in our unpressurized twin. So we cruise in the mid-teen altitudes where the air is cold.

We are looking for an easy-to-use solution to cool off the cabin of the airplane prior to launch, during taxi and during climb. Give me some solutions.


—Tommy the Twin Driver

Dear Tommy,

I can sympathize with you. I well remember wishing I had a way to beat the heat during a cross-country flight in September to attend a Club Pilotos de Mexico get-together at the Hacienda de los Santos resort in Alamos, Mexico. (A very memorable trip to a wonderful resort.)

But back to your request for a solution to mitigating a hot cabin. There are permanently installed vapor cycle systems and portable icebox systems.

There are two different types of vapor cycle systems. Electrically-driven systems use power from the aircraft electrical system (i.e., alternator and battery) or from ground power to drive the compressor and airflow fans.

One advantage of this type of system is that they can be powered up using ground power to cool the cabin prior to engine start. The second advantage is there are no restrictions on system usage. Systems that drive the compressor off the engine need to be shut down during takeoff and landing since a small portion of engine power is used to drive the compressor.

The disadvantage of electrical systems is that they require a great deal of amperage—45 to 70 amps and a 28 volt electrical system—to function. None of the retrofit systems are eligible for installation in airplanes with 12 volt electrical systems.

The second type of system uses engine power to drive the compressor through a belt tensioning system. This system draws only a small electrical load—enough to power the distribution fans and control circuitry—but as was mentioned earlier, this system must be turned off during takeoff and landing operations.

Aircenter Inc of Chattanooga, Tenn. sells a Cool Air system for your 310. This electrically-driven system is installed aft of the rear cabin bulkhead. According to Gary Gadberry at Aircenter, the Cool Air system adds 55 pounds to the aircraft empty weight.

The system draws 70 amps during maximum cooling and somewhat less during other operating modes. This means that 100 amp alternators will need to be installed on both engines if they aren’t already installed.

In addition to a bit of airframe modification to accommodate fresh air and evaporator ducting, some additional wiring will need to be installed. Gadberry estimates that the installation takes 100 man-hours to complete.

Aircenter offers a flat rate installation of $6,000 at its Chattanooga service center. The cost of the STC approved kit for the 310 is $18,000. Total cost when completed at the Aircenter facility is $24,000.

Cool Air air-conditioning kits are also available for 28 volt Cessna singles and twins including the 172R; 182RG; T206H; 210 L, M and N; 310s and the Cessna 303.

Air Comm Corp of Denver and Addison, Tex. also markets a number of STC approved air-conditioning systems for single and twin engine Cessnas. Air Comm sells STC’d air-conditioning systems for 28 volt Cessna 172s, 182s and 206s, and for the 340/340A and 414/414A twins. (Air Comm Corp. purchased Keith Air Conditioning.)

Kelly Aerospace markets its electrically-driven Kelly Aerospace Thermal Systems (KATS) ThermaCool systems for installation on 28 volt Cessna 172s, 182s and 206s. KATS is the supplier for Cessna factory installed air-conditioning systems.

According to Jeff Barlett at Kelly Thermal systems, the ThermaCool systems weigh approximately 48 pounds and draw approximately 40 amps at 28 volts during operation.

KATS ThermaCool also holds approval to install a second 28 volt, 95 amp alternator as an option. This is a standby installation; either alternator can be selected to supply power, but not both at the same time.

As you can see, while air-conditioning is offered by three companies, the number of aftermarket options for your 310 is limited to the system from Aircenter Inc. Neither Air Comm nor KATS offers a system for your 310.

Installing that FAA approved air-conditioning system from Aircenter will cost you the price of the system, 55 pounds of useful load and the use of your airplane for approximately one month during the installation of the system—but you’ll gain a much more comfortable cabin environment prior to start, during ground operations and during your climb to altitude.

If you’re not ready to take that step, there is a much more basic but effective low cost solution available.

The IcyBreeze portable air conditioner can be filled with two quarts of water, and the rest with ice. Cold water is drawn up into the heat exchanger while fresh air is pulled into the top and across the heat exchanger, cooling the air by up to 35 degrees.

The cooled air arrives through a vent, or it can be directed using a stay-put flexible hose. All units have a three-speed fan and either a rechargeable battery and/or 12 volt or 110 volt power supply (or all three). Amp draw for units running on ship power are specified at 1.5 low, 2.5 medium, 2.9 high.

The empty weight of the IcyBreeze Chill is 21 pounds; fully loaded with ice, it will add 51 pounds to your airplane. Cost for a Chill 12V unit (no rechargeable battery) is $249. The top-of-the-line Whiteout lists for $425 and comes with several accessories including a custom NiMH battery pack and smart charger, 12 volt power supply, 110 volt power supply, wired remote and a four-foot extension tube. Several other packages are available.

Arctic Air of Cordele, Ga. sells ice coolers that can be used in airplanes with either 12 or 24 volt (when used with a $140 24-to-12 volt converter, available from Arctic Air) electrical systems.

Arctic Air units come in three sizes: 30 quart, 38 quart and 52 quart; with one or two output fans; using 12 volt or 24 volt power; and with one or two louvered or ducted outlets.

The 38 quart size has an empty weight is 18 pounds. The 52 quart unit can weigh up to 67 pounds when full of ice.



Users report that these units work well even in airplanes with a large cabin such as your 310. Prior to use the unit is filled with either block, crushed or cubed ice, put in the cabin either on the rear seat or in the baggage area, tied down and powered up.

Depending on the temperature and the type of ice, cold air is available from 1.5 to three hours.

Arctic Air units are attractive and well insulated, feature two speed settings and are relatively inexpensive. Prices range from $495 for a 12 volt, 30 quart, single-fan unit with a flexible duct, up to $650 for a 52 quart, 24 volt, dual-fan unit with dual louvers.

One option on the Artic Air website is a $90 battery pack. The battery pack is used to cool the cabin—such as during preflight—without using aircraft power.

Sporty’s Pilot Shop sells all sizes of the Arctic Air ice units, and Sporty’s website includes short product demonstration videos showing sizes and features.

Artic Air also sells portable vapor cycle 12 and 24 volt air-conditioning units that can be used in aircraft. Prices start at $4,600, and more information is available at the Arctic Air website.


Happy flying. 


Know your FAR/AIM and check with your mechanic before starting any work. 

Steve Ells has been an A&P/IA for 43 years and is a commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings. Ells also loves utility and bush-style airplanes and operations. He’s a former tech rep and editor for Cessna Pilots Association and served as associate editor for AOPA Pilot until 2008. Ells is the owner of Ells Aviation (EllsAviation.com) and lives in Templeton, Calif. with his wife Audrey. Send questions and comments to .



Club Pilotos’ Fall Reunion 2016
Club Pilotos de Mexico


Hacienda de los Santos


Air-conditioning systems
Aircenter, Inc.


Air Comm Corp.


Arctic Air


Arctic Air product demos
(type “Arctic Air” into the search engine to view products and videos)



Kelly Aerospace

So Long/Hello Bill

So Long/Hello Bill

January 2016

After more than a decade and a half of upgrades and flying adventures—many of them published in Cessna Flyer—contributing editor Charles Lloyd recently handed off his pampered 182 to a new owner. 

“There comes a time when two people sit down at a table to sign and exchange papers,” says aviation author Richard Bach.1 “Then an airplane, with all its logbooks and other important papers, flies away with a new owner.

“One thing that the previous owner never relinquishes,” Bach continues, “is the memories of flights in this wonderful flying machine.”

As I write this today, Bill, our pampered Cessna 182, has left his heated hangar at Lake Waltanna, Kan. (SN65) and headed east to a new home at St. Louis Downtown Airport (KCPS) in Cahokia, Ill.

So Long

During the last 16 years, Bill evolved from a homely 1966 Cessna 182 to a very nice IFR “get-you-where-you-need-to-go” airplane with many redundant systems.

Starting with obsolete King KX-170 radios and a transponder that worked most of the time, plus an inop autopilot and DME, the instrument panel layout was something that only a pinball game designer could love. Crazed acrylic made looking outside the aircraft a challenge… and let’s not even talk about the exterior paint condition.

Over a two-year period, new paint, a redesigned panel with three modes of panel lighting, and a new Garmin GNS 430, Stormscope and S-TEC autopilot transformed Bill into a magic carpet that traveled all over the United States.

After adding a GNS 530 GPS Nav/Com, WAAS, SiriusXM for weather, TIS-B traffic and altitude hold and a 252 hp engine upgrade, Bill became a dream airplane for any pilot. Today Bill has over 40 STCs and field approvals.

When Charles Lloyd first acquired Bill, the instrument panel layout was something that only a pinball game designer could love. Avionics included obsolete King KX-170 radios and a transponder that worked most of the time, plus an inop autopilot and DME.
           Lloyd transformed Bill into a nice IFR aircraft with many redundant systems. The redesigned panel has three modes of panel lighting, with a Garmin GNS 430, Stormscope, S-TEC autopilot, GNS
           530 GPS Nav/Com, WAAS, SiriusXM for weather, TIS-B traffic and altitude hold. The installation of a G3 engine monitor from Insight was the topic of an article in this magazine in 2013. 

Bill took me on trips to the four corners of the United States and to the Gulf of Mexico as well as to Wisconsin for Cessna Flyer Gatherings and EAA AirVenture. Some of my travels with Bill included a flight to one of my all-time favorite destinations, Jackson Hole, Wyo. and Grand Teton National Park (published in this magazine in March 2007).

I also wrote about my experiences at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla. (March 2008); the Legoland theme park in Winter Haven, Fla. (March 2012); the Cessna Flyer Gathering at Waupaca and EAA AirVenture (October 2012); a trip to Cody, Wyo. (February 2014); and a tour of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center (April 2014).

Add to these all of my trips into Class B airspace in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Memphis, New York, Phoenix and Orlando—all were a great challenge (and a real kick!) to fly and fit in with the high-volume flow.

In addition to so many destinations, various weather challenges, new equipment and safety upgrades became worthwhile subjects for many other Cessna Flyer articles. (Members can log in to CessnaFlyer.org to read dozens of Charles Lloyd’s articles in the archives, including the popular three-part series “Avionics Bucket List.” Members can also reread features like “Look Inside Your Engine—from the Cockpit!” discussing the installation of an Insight G3 engine monitor and many other technology-focused stories. —Ed.)

            After owning Bill for 16 years and enjoying 2,000 hours of flying, Charles Lloyd feels strongly that there is a time to own and enjoy a particular airplane, and then there is a time to let go. In the  
            summer of 2015, the time had come to let go of Bill.
Decision time

The day finally came when it was time to hand Bill over to another owner.

After reading “The Do’s and Don’ts of Buying and Selling a Plane” (Cessna Flyer, December 2014), I called to ask author Michael Leighton for his advice on where to advertise Bill for sale. Leighton asked me about Bill’s model year and equipment, and recommended Barnstormers.com as a good place to start.

Lo and behold, before I even had my advertisement written, I came across a wanted ad: a Cessna 182 buyer was looking for an aircraft similar to Bill. After exchanging emails and sending pictures of specific items and places on the airframe, the buyer had enough interest to see, touch and fly Bill.

A trip to St. Louis Downtown Airport (KCPS) soon followed, where Bill underwent a pre-purchase inspection and demonstration flight. This led to final negotiations, a sales agreement and a target delivery date.

Final voyage

The big day had arrived. I walked into the hangar and started loading a lot of items into the backseat and baggage area. Bill’s ever-present curiosity got the best of him and he starting asking questions.

“Hey Charles,” I heard. “What is all that stuff you’re loading in me? Those aren’t the normal items we take on our trips out of Waltanna.”

“Well, Bill,” I replied, “I am not flying you as much as I used to, and I found you a new home over in the St. Louis area.”

“Yeah, I wondered why that stranger in St. Louis was poking around my insides,” he said. “I guess now I know.”

“Yes,” I said aloud. “The new owner has purchased a hangar for you and he’s excited about adding some additional equipment to your avionics panel.

“He seems like a really nice guy,” I added.

So, off we flew to Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport (KICT), formerly Wichita Mid-Continent, on our last flight together. The tower controller even commented that he understood this was Bill’s and my last flight together, which was nice.

After signing papers and checking with banks, Bill officially had a new owner. Hello

John Bradley, Bill’s new owner, comes from a similar mold as I do.

Bradley has a fascination for airplanes that goes back to early childhood when his father took him to the rooftop of the Tampa airport parking structure to watch the airplanes take off and land. A grandfather who flew a B-25 in World War II only added to his aviation interest.

Bradley’s activity in the Civil Air Patrol and Air Force ROTC put him on his way to a career as pilot with the U.S. Air Force and National Guard. These days, John Bradley is a first officer for a major airline and living his dream life.

He always harbored a yearning to own an airplane for personal travel in order to visit friends and family up and down the East Coast of the United States. Bradley wanted an aircraft that was reasonably fast, roomy and well equipped for IFR conditions, so he focused on a Garmin WAAS-equipped 182.

Bradley is also a Cessna Flyer Association member and enjoys Cessna Flyer magazine because it focuses on his personal flying interests.

After attending EAA AirVenture this year, he came back with tote bags of information on Garmin and Aspen glass panels, plus brochures on the many approaches to ADS-B. In addition to these plans, an immediate upgrade to the interior will finish off Bill’s cockpit in fine style.

My wife Sara was weepy as John prepared to fly Bill away, and she was concerned about how I would react. After owning Bill for 16 years and enjoying 2,000 hours of flying, I feel that there is a time to own and enjoy a particular airplane, and then there is a time to let go. This time had come.

Bill’s new owner reassured us that this ownership change is not the end of the book, it’s simply the end of one chapter—and the beginning of a new one.

John and Bill, may the sun always be over your shoulder and a tailwind your constant companion through blue skies for your future adventures.

            Bill’s new owner, John Bradley, is a first officer for a major airline. Bradley wanted an aircraft that was reasonably fast, roomy and well equipped for IFR conditions. He is even a Cessna Flyer                   Association member!

1When author Charles Lloyd emailed to ask Richard Bach for proper attribution of his quote, Bach replied, “I remember writing a comment like that just a few months ago. But I have no idea now where it appeared.” If any CFA members can locate the work in which this passage was published, please email us at to enlighten us—and Mr. Bach.

Charles Lloyd has logged 10,000 hours since his first flying lesson in 1954. He worked for Cessna Aircraft for 16 years. Lloyd retired as captain of a Citation Encore Plus for a major fractional aircraft ownership company and recently sold his tricked-out 1966 Cessna 182, also known as Bill. Send questions or comments to .


Full Circle: A Controller Speaks, Part Two

More excerpts from David Larson’s “Spinning at the Boundary: The Making of an Air Traffic Controller.”

The last time we were together I began a series highlighting one of the aviation-themed audiobooks that I produced and narrated: the interesting and entertaining memoirs from an FAA air traffic controller.

Retired after 36 years of working traffic—initially at some small and then on to several very large ATC facilities—David Larson’s “Spinning at the Boundary: The Making of an Air Traffic Controller” is available in print and e-book from Amazon, while the audio version that I narrated can be found at Amazon, Audible and in Apple’s iTunes Library. (Note: this book contains a measure of salty/profane language—be forewarned if you prefer not to hear or read that sort of thing.)

“Spinning at the Boundary” is an insider’s view—with lots of iconoclastic observations and irreverent opinions—from an experienced controller’s career path and the ATC happenings during that long (and often tumultuous) period in our aviation history. Continuing with our selected excerpts from the audio script, and with the author’s permission, here are a few highlights from his years in the Miami (KMIA) tower, beginning with one particularly boring night shift:

I was working the midnight shift with a friend of mine and nothing was going on, so—idle minds and all—I made up a tag for an aircraft that didn’t exist. To keep it from dropping off the radar, I put it into a handoff status to an unused scope (a target in that mode will sit on a scope indefinitely).

Then I called the tower and told him a C-130 was going to make low approaches over Runway 09/27. I moved that tag by using the reposition function so that it would appear to be moving when the controller in the tower watched it on his radar display.

I ran the tag out to a 10-mile final and started to move it down the final approach course. When the tag got to a seven-mile final, I used the backup radio and called the tower. Disguising my voice, I said, “Metro Tower, Air Force five-six-nine on a seven-mile final for Runway 27; low approach.”

The controller cleared “Air Force” for the approach, and I moved the target slowly down the final, “flew” down the runway, and out the other side.

Needless to say, the tower guy never saw anything.

I kept up the approaches for the next hour or so while I told the guy in the tower it was a top secret test the Air Force was doing on super stealth aircraft that were really, really quiet.

I kept at it until the guy upstairs realized that the voice on the radio was me. Oddly enough, he didn’t think it was near as funny as I did. Go figure.

Another story within “Spinning at the Boundary” came from the radar room in Miami. It happened while Larson was training a new controller on approach control and other controllers in the room were carrying on very loud and raucous personal conversations with each other:

The incident that pulled the bottom card out of our card house wasn’t the mistake that was eventually made; the final straw was the action taken to fix a mistake. A British Airways heavy B-747 (callsign “Speed Bird”) filled with happy Brits winging their way to beautiful South Florida was on the final approach for 09L, descending out of 2,800 feet, 10 miles from the airport and already on the control tower frequency.

My trainee had turned an American heavy jet north from the south side of the airport for a visual approach to 09R. American had called the airport in sight, and the trainee cleared him for the visual approach.

So, although American was pointed directly at Speed Bird—and also at the same altitude—it didn’t matter because American would turn toward the runway before he became a factor for Speed Bird—in theory.

But instead of hearing the visual approach clearance directed to him, the pilot heard a bunch of yelling in the background of the facility from that bunch of bored controllers, so he kept winging northward—ready to T-bone Speed Bird.

Luckily, visibility was good and American eventually said, “Would you like us to turn onto the final?”

Now picture, if you will, standing on a pitcher’s mound. In front of you are 20 people with their hands behind their backs. All at once, all 20 of them fling a softball at you, and as they release them, someone yells, “Catch the red one, or everybody dies!”

That’s exactly how much time you have to fix this problem involving hundreds of people coming together with a 400-knot closure rate.

My guy had an instant fix: Speed Bird was at 2,600 feet, and he needed 1,000 feet of separation to be safe, and since American was descending, he told that pilot to descend immediately to 1,500 feet. The downside was that American was still at 3,000 feet, so to get to 1,500 he had to descend through Speed Bird’s altitude.

I took the frequency over at that point, stopped that, and let American pass behind Speed Bird.

Even though they would miss each other by less than half a mile and 100 feet of altitude, it was the best alternative I had. It was technically illegal, but by using that option, everybody got to go on living.

Unfortunately, that was when something else turned really sour.

Once I took the position over, I began transmitting at a hundred miles an hour. The fact that 300 or 400 people nearly died at my hand didn’t help my mental condition at all—but I still had to keep ‘em separated.

At the time, I had 15 to 20 aircraft on my frequency, all going between 250 and 150 knots, and all trying to get to the same spot on the earth. I was talking nonstop as fast as I could, not even taking time to unkey my radio so the pilots could answer me.

After every instruction I would tell the pilot to “ident to answer”—that would cause a little “ID” to show up on the scope, so I knew they were doing what I told them. I was now “vectoring for Jesus,” as the expression goes.

All things considered, events were actually going pretty well at that point. The rest of my wards were adequately separated, and I could see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. The light quickly turned out to be an express freight train headed directly toward me.

I looked up into the northeast arrival corridor, and noticed that an Air Canada Airbus and a Comair regional jet were winging their way down the arrival chute at the same altitude—but luckily, three miles apart, side by side. I thought I should pull these guys apart a little more.

As a refresher, on any radar scope little “tags” follow each aircraft. A “position symbol” sits over the actual aircraft (this symbol is the letter of the scope that is working that traffic: “S,” “A,” “V,” “N;” whatever).

Then a line called a “leader line” extends, usually about one-fourth of an inch, to the “data block.” The data block contains the flight information, callsign, aircraft type, altitude, etc.

This automation also has a cute feature called “auto offset.” This feature will offset a data block that is laying on top of another one, so the controller can read it.

Back to our hapless duo in the arrival corridor. As you may remember, I was going to help them out by pulling them farther apart. The tag for Comair was on the east side of the corridor, and the tag for Air Canada was on the west side, so I turned Comair 20 degrees to the east and Air Canada 20 degrees to the west.

As I’m sure even the slowest of you have already figured out, the tags had auto offset, and instead of giving the pilots some breathing room, I tried to fly them up each other’s noses.

All Comair had time to say was “Hey!” as he ripped right behind the Airbus.

The history that was made at this point was this: two “deals” (ATC system errors) in one session that weren’t even related to each other.

I politicked for my trainee, who had done a smashing job (no pun intended) right up until the deals occurred. So the instructor—me—was decertified with a double deal, and the trainee was checked out.

Next time: The weirdness of KMIA prevails.

Editor-at-large Thomas Block has flown nearly 30,000 hours since his first hour of dual in 1959. In addition to his 36-year career as a US Airways pilot, he has been an aviation magazine writer since 1969, and a best-selling novelist. Over the past 30 years he has owned more than a dozen personal airplanes of varying types. Send questions or comments to .

Preparing for Your First International Flight: Part 1

Preparing for Your First International Flight: Part 1

A mile of concrete will launch you and your airplane to anywhere, but not without the right paperwork filed in the right places. Association member Pam Busboom takes us through the process, step by step.

January 2016

So you’re finally ready to stretch your wings and leave the confines of the United States. Good for you! But be forewarned: when you first investigate what is required for international flight originating from the United States, the to-do list is daunting.

And, make no mistake, getting it all lined up is a task that will require attention, fortitude, patience, a computer with internet access—and a cup filled with your caffeine- or alcohol-based beverage of choice. If you’re so armed, let’s get started!

What exactly is required for you and your airplane prior to an international trip? Each country has slightly different requirements, and there is paperwork required by the United States to let you come back after your international visit.

The bad news is there is a lot to do. The good news is that once you get through all of it, things become much easier for future trips.

Comprehensive requirements

First, let’s look at the list of requirements to get to and from your chosen destination.  (Keep in mind, this is an everything-but-the-kitchen sink list!)


Pilot and passengers’ requirements

To act as PIC, the pilot must have:

a current Passport;

Pilot certificate with an English-proficient endorsement;

Valid medical certificate;

Restricted radio telephone operators permit; and

Letter of Authorization to fly the aircraft (if it is not registered in the pilot’s name).


If you are carrying passengers, each of them must have a current passport as well. Children traveling with only one parent must have a notarized statement of approval from the absent parent giving permission for travel with the dates of the trip.


Aircraft requirements

But wait; we’re not done yet. In addition to personal documents, the aircraft has to have paperwork and equipment, too. All U.S.-registered aircraft must have:

A standard Airworthiness Certificate;

A permanent registration certificate;

A radio station license;

Operating limitations information;

Weight and Balance information;

An ID plate;

12-inch registration marks;

Transponder with Mode C; and

ELT communications on 121.5 MHz or 406 MHz.


If the aircraft has fuel tanks installed in the baggage or passenger compartments, a Form 337 must be on board.

For overwater flights, a life vest/flotation device for each person aboard is required, and life rafts are recommended.


U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

We’re still not done. In order to both leave and come back to the U.S., you also have to be set up with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). This agency requires:

Registration on and use of the Electronic Advance Passenger Information System (eAPIS); and A customs decal (these are good for one calendar year).



Yet another thing you’ll want to consider when preparing for an international flight is verifying your aircraft insurance. Be sure that your policy covers travel into your proposed destination country.

Liability coverage also must be carefully scrutinized, as each country sets its own liability coverage limits—make sure you have adequate coverage. In some countries (i.e., Mexico) it may be necessary/prudent to also carry a local country liability policy.

Finally, virtually all international destinations require that you carry a copy of your insurance binder with you (or, at least, the salient parts) which you will need to get from your insurance company prior to your trip.


ICAO flight plan

And finally, the icing on the cake, if you are going to be flying in international airspace, you are required to use an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) flight plan.

Now, keep in mind that we are all going to ICAO flight plans anyway: effective Oct. 1, 2016, the U.S. is adopting it as the standard format. But if you’re like us, you haven’t made that switch yet, and I’m here to tell you that there is a learning curve.

According to the AOPA website:

Use of an ICAO flight plan is currently required if the flight will enter international airspace. While an ICAO flight plan and an FAA flight plan are similar in many ways, there are some important differences. Some items are the same on both forms: aircraft ID or tail number; aircraft type, fuel endurance, and number of people on board. New items on the ICAO flight plan include a Wake Turbulence category, and Type of Flight. The biggest change, though, is found in the equipment suffixes box, box 10. The ICAO codes used to denote the type of equipment on board the aircraft are different than the codes used by the FAA.

I’m leaving it as an exercise for the student (Didn’t you hate it when you heard or read that phrase in a class or textbook? Pretty much guaranteed confusion ahead!) to figure out the ICAO flight plan. Be sure to check out helpful videos on the AOPA website and other great online tools, and check your FAR/AIM, too.

How’s that cup of beverage doing? Need a refill? If so, get it now, because the fun is just beginning. Keep in mind that the preceding information is the comprehensive list of what may be required, and not every country may require everything on this list. (My husband Rich and I figure that being compliant with all of these items is actually easier in the long run. After all, it is easier to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!)

And before we go any further, a caveat! Since we fly a GA single, my focus is the requirements for what are loosely categorized as Part 23 aircraft. There may be additional requirements and/or restrictions for LSAs and experimental aircraft. For example, experimental aircraft will likely need a special airworthiness certificate. And while light-sport aircraft are generally permitted in other countries, a light-sport pilot certificate may not be. If you plan to fly internationally in an LSA or experimental aircraft, extend your research accordingly. 

FCC Form 753-B has been replaced by FCC 605 Quick-Form Application for Authorization in the Ship, Aircraft, Amateur, Restricted and Commercial Operator, and General Mobile Radio Services.
Even if you have your old paper FCC radio operators’ license (or if you don’t have any such animal), you need to register a new Form 605 with the FCC. This can be done either online or by mail.
A closer look at the list

Let’s take a closer look at this plethora of stuff. Before you hyperventilate, be assured that much of this is pretty straightforward and/or items you already have.

Passports? Likely you already have these in this post-9/11 world, but it might be a good time to check the expiration date—many countries want you to have at least six months of valid time left on the document while you are traveling.

Letters for children? Probably a good idea even if you aren’t traveling outside the U.S.

A medical certificate for the pilot-in-command? Well, that’s pretty much a given as well. (Third-Class medical reform notwithstanding.) You will need to pay careful attention to country-specific requirements. The Bahamas, for example, allow LSA to be flown by pilots with a light-sport pilot certificate and their driver’s license. However, Canada requires at least a third-class medical and does not recognize U.S. recreational pilot certificates or sport-pilot certificates. (See Transport Canada document TP 15048 for details. The link is in Resources at
the end of this
column. —Ed.)

For the airplane, if you don’t have a standard airworthiness certificate, a permanent registration, operating limitations information, ID plate and an ELT (either frequency), you have problems other than flying internationally!

On weight and balance, well, you’re doing that already for flights (right?), so all you have to do is make sure you have a hard copy of it with you.

Twelve-inch numbers? Those are the standard numbers most of us have, and if your airplane doesn’t, temporary decals are fine.

The Mode C transponder is likely not an issue for many of us, either, as that is standard equipment in any IFR airplane. And while it may be possible to reach (and return from) some destinations without one, pretty much every international flight is going to require it. If you do not have a Mode C transponder, I’d recommend that you think very carefully—and research even more carefully—before making an international flight.

As for the overwater requirements for flotation devices, that’s an important safety item whenever you are going to be flying more than glide distance away from land. While there is no specific FAA requirement for small General Aviation aircraft to have life rafts or life preservers on board to make a water crossing, ICAO regulations do require it when traveling internationally. And, of course, if the aircraft is operated for compensation or hire, this compliance is mandatory under the FAA.

Finally, if we can agree that not too many of us will have fuel tanks installed in either the baggage or passenger compartments (and those that do, will, of course, have a Form 337), we can—with a huge sigh of relief—realize that our dauntingly-long list has been significantly reduced.

Effective Oct. 1, 2016, the United States is adopting the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) flight plan as the standard format. There is a learning curve, so be sure to check out helpful videos on the AOPA website and other great online tools, and check your FAR/AIM, too.
What’s left?

Now that we’ve discussed the obvious items, what remains?

For the Pilot in Command:

Pilot certificate with an English-proficient endorsement;

Restricted radiotelephone operators permit; and Letter of Authorization (if the aircraft is not registered in the pilot’s name).

For the aircraft:

A radio station license; and CBP decal.

For the flight:

Enrollment in and use of the eAPIS system.


This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Let’s roll up our sleeves and start dealing with these.

PIC requirements

Let’s start with the last item first. The Letter of Authorization only applies if you are flying someone else’s airplane. If this is the case, get the owner to issue you a notarized letter stating your explicit permission to take the airplane to the destination country during the time period desired. Be sure that all the insurance coverages you need are also in place (as discussed earlier in this article), as foreign travel is not a given with GA aircraft insurance policies.

Next up, the private pilot certificate and the English-proficient endorsement. Go ahead (yes, right this minute!) and pull out your license. Flip it to the back side and take a peek. If yours looks like mine, you will see a line reading “English proficient.” Now, I can’t guarantee that everyone has the same, but my suspicion is that when you traded in your old paper certificate for the new plastic one (for those of us who have had those certificates for a while) the English-proficiency question was on the form.

While the ability to read, speak, write and understand English has always been a regulatory requirement in the U.S., an endorsement stating as much has not. The ICAO has been requiring this proficiency endorsement since 2008. The FAA agreed to bring U.S. certificates in compliance as well, with full implementation by March of 2009.

So the short story is you likely already have the endorsement on your certificate. If you find that you don’t, you should order a replacement certificate to remedy the oversight and this can be done either online or by mail. Information and instructions for acquiring a replacement certificate can be found on the FAA website. (See Resources at the end of this article for this and several other helpful links. —Ed.)

Now let’s tackle the restricted radiotelephone operators permit (RR). I don’t know about all of you, but way back in the Dawn of Time when I got my private license, I was also issued a radiotelephone operators permit FCC Form 753-B. It was just a piece of thick paper that you filled out with your name and signature that essentially said you were allowed to operate a radio.

A quick scan of the FCC website tells you that FCC Form 753-B has been replaced by FCC 605 Quick-Form Application for Authorization in the Ship, Aircraft, Amateur, Restricted and Commercial Operator, and General Mobile Radio Services.

What does this mean? Well, even if you have your old paper FCC radio operators’ license (or if you don’t have any such animal), you need to register a new Form FCC 605. This can be done either online or by mail, but I highly recommend the former, not only because it is faster (a few days vs. four to six weeks) but also because you can get the radio station license you need for your airplane at the same time. Yup—not only do you need a radio operator’s permit, but your airplane has to have a permit to be a radio station (aka broadcast center).

At this point in the proceedings, it is time to flex those fingers and start using the computer in earnest. We are about to embark on a journey through government forms, applications, passwords and terminology.

Perhaps a break is in order first, as by this time, your cup is likely empty and your head aching. Let’s pick this up next month, when I’ll walk you through how to register on the FCC website and apply for your radio license documents as well as how to get enrolled with eAPIS and order your CPB decal. 

Pam “The Queen of Everything” Busboom and her husband Rich “The Prince of Whatever is Left” are both pilots with private certificates. Pam has over 400 hours, while Rich (who also holds commercial, CFI a­nd CFII ratings) has more than 7,000 hours. They and their single engine aircraft are based in northern Colorado. Send questions or comments to .

ICAO flight plan

FAA Flight Planning Information



ICAO flight plan help




Documentation request forms

Replacement airman certificate



FCC 605, “Quick-Form
Application for Authorization
in the Ship, Aircraft, Amateur,
Restricted and Commercial
Operator, and General Mobile
Radio Services”



Transport Canada regulations

TP 15048, “Flying to Canada –
What You Should Know”



Taking Us to Incredible Places

Taking Us to Incredible Places

Through well-produced YouTube videos, Doug and Denise Winston show just how much fun you can have when flying your own airplane.

We all know life can be a lot like a game of “Chutes and Ladders,” where one minute we are climbing for the sky, and the next, we are sliding into chaos. Every person reading this has had to overcome some level of adversity, and many of us have been challenged to push on when others would have given up.

I’m currently reading “Never Broken: Songs are Only Half the Story” by Jewel Kilcher, the wildly successful singer-songwriter who has endured decades of struggle to achieve her dream. Jewel’s records have topped the charts and her sweet voice has won her awards, but she would still be living in her car in San Diego if not for a strong instinct to survive anything that came her way.

Kilcher writes in her autobiography that we must dig deep to pull out every last shred of self-motivation and continue chasing our dreams until they are truly fulfilled. For Jewel, life’s major challenges were merely bumps in the road.

In October 2014, Doug and Denise Winston of Bakersfield, Calif. experienced one of these major challenges. Doug has logged about 2,300 hours since earning his ticket in 1985 and has owned five airplanes.

A significant portion of his flights were as a volunteer, using his beloved Cessna 210, N234SS, to fly for Wounded Warrior Project, Veterans Airlift Command, pet rescues or donating flights for Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Yet, the Winstons’ volunteer flying could have abruptly ended after Doug received the kind of call that nobody wants to take.

“Our Cessna 210 was in annual inspection,” Doug explained, “when I received a call from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall AFB in Florida informing me that my new 406 MHz ELT had been activated.

“I let them know the plane was in maintenance and gave them the phone number for the maintenance facility, thinking it was an accidental activation of the ELT that we all read about. I left a message at the shop, but was not able to talk them until the next day.”

But this was no accidental activation.

“The next day when I could get in touch with the shop,” Doug continued, “after a very long pause on the phone, the owner of the facility told me that my plane was gone, burned to the ground in a hangar fire.

“After questioning him on what happened and asking if anyone was hurt, I did an internet search for the airport where the plane was located and sure enough, there was news video, pictures and articles about a big hangar fire the prior day,” he explained.

“This is something you never want to hear—it was akin to losing a close friend.”

The fire occurred when the pilot-side fuel tank was being emptied to perform an AD. It was draining into a 55-gallon drum on metal wheels via a large funnel.

The mechanic noticed that a dribble of fuel on the underside of the wing was making its way toward the open cockpit door. He wiped it with a cotton rag, and static electricity ignited the fuel, the rag, the mechanic’s hand, and then the stream of fuel into the barrel.

“Everyone ran for fire extinguishers,” Doug recalled, “and the mechanic grabbed the barrel and began dragging it out of the hangar.

“This was a mistake as the flaming fuel was now spreading in a large puddle on the floor. They had every fire extinguisher in the building spraying the flames, but once they were spent, the interior of the plane ignited from the heat, and fire consumed the plane.

“The airport fire truck arrived quickly, but it was too late.”

Denise was out of town on business and when she heard the tone of Doug’s voice on the phone, she knew something was wrong. “He said, ‘The plane is totally destroyed,’” Denise remembered, “then proceeded to walk me though what happened.

“I felt a pit in my stomach,” she continued. “This plane has taken us to incredible places; provided so much joy and memories for those who flew with us. When I got home, our friends came over with a plaque that said ‘Final Flight Following Request for N234SS’ with a beautiful picture of the plane.

“It made me realize how lucky we are to be able to do the things we do! General Aviation is an incredible lifestyle that not many get to experience.”

With Four-Sierra-Sierra destroyed, the Winstons could have packed it in as aviation volunteers. But anyone who knows them will confirm that quitting was not an option. The Winstons get extraordinary satisfaction out of their volunteer flights, and nothing was going to take that away from them.

Doug’s inspiration for giving back comes from Denise, a successful financial expert, author and motivational speaker. “Doug has heard me asking my audiences three questions: ‘What are you good at?’ ‘What do you love to do?’ and ‘How can you be most helpful?’

“Anyone can write a check,” Denise explained, “But using your time, talent and resources are much more valuable, and you get to see where 100 percent of your donation goes, in the smiles of your passengers, or a wet-nose nudge from a pup.

“Doug is using his pilot’s license, plane, time and cash for a purpose—and for me, it’s using my video skills to create a lasting experience for those who fly with us, and to promote the GA lifestyle.”

Denise honed her video skills while working on a financial education DVD series. She purchased a variety of video and sound equipment, and learned the craft by working with professional videographers and editors.

Wanting to literally “get on board” with Doug’s GA advocacy, she asked herself those same three questions: “What am I good at?” “What do I love to do?” and “How can I be most helpful?”

She documented a flight from San Diego to Mammoth Lakes, Calif. during a Veterans Airlift Command flight for her first video, and realized both she and Doug enjoyed sharing the General Aviation experience.

Together they began producing GA-based travel videos to promote the convenience, fun and adventure of traveling in their flying machine. “We are trying to do our part in public relations for GA, and want to recruit more pilots since the population of flyers has been dwindling over the years.

“We have gotten emails from some aspiring pilots who watched our videos, so we know it works,” Denise said.

The Winstons’ YouTube channel shows just how much fun you can have when flying your own airplane. It’s a large selection of short videos with good production value, combining great travel scenes and in-flight footage with Denise’s smooth on-camera persona.

Now about that destroyed airplane. There was never any hesitation by the Winstons in looking for a new plane.

“We had to get back to doing our flying thing,” Doug said. “I was upset and sad, but what better way to make myself feel better than some airplane shopping therapy?

“In the weeks that followed, we located a beautiful 1970 Cessna T210 before it came up for sale at the same FBO where we kept our plane. The seller heard our story, and we heard his—that his prior plane, a Skylane, burned in a mysterious fire at a private airport.

“We did not wait long to buy his T210... it was destiny.”

Doug and Denise Winston are back in the air now, doing what they love, helping others with their airplane—and filming it all for our enjoyment. You can never keep these kinds of generous people down for long.

Dan Pimentel has worked in journalism and graphic design since 1979, and is the president and creative director of Celeste/Daniels Advertising and Design (celestedaniels.com). He’s an instrument-rated private pilot and has been writing the Airplanista Aviation Blog (airplanista.com) since 2005. You can find him on Twitter as @Av8rdan. Send questions or comments to .



Further reading
“Never Broken: Songs are
Only Half the Story”

by Jewel Kilcher. New York,
N.Y.: Blue Rider Press, 2015.


Flying adventures,
weekend trips and more

Winstons’ YouTube channel



Volunteer opportunities

Boys & Girls Clubs of America



Veterans Airlift Command



Wounded Warrior Project