Aerodromes vs Airports

One area of confusion when it comes to dealing with Transport Canada aviation regulations is the subtle differences between aerodrome and airport.  While the definitions are very similar and overlap there are slight differences that impact which regulations may apply and how they are applied.

The following document on the TC website provides further details: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/publications/tp13549-chapter6-406.htm

Aerodrome or airport—what’s the difference?
The terms airport and aerodrome are often used interchangeably by the aviation industry; legislation and regulation—at least in Canada—make primary use of the latter. For instance, the Canadian Aeronautics Act defines an aerodrome as:

“Any area of land, water (including the frozen surface thereof) or other supporting surface used, designed, prepared, equipped or set apart for use either in whole or in part for the arrival, departure movement or servicing thereon or associated therewith.”

Aerodrome categories
There are three different categories of aerodromes, each presenting progressively different safety requirements. In order of ascending safety level, the categories are listed below:

  • aerodromes (small airstrips located on private property that are neither registered nor certified),
  • registered aerodromes, and
  • certified aerodromes, referred to as airports.

Registered aerodromes
While listed, registered aerodromes are not certified as airports in the Canada Flight Supplement (CFS)—a publication for pilots containing operating information for registered aerodromes and airports. Registered aerodromes are not subject to ongoing inspection by Transport Canada; however, they are inspected periodically to verify compliance with Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) and to ensure the accuracy of information published in the CFS and the Water Aerodrome Supplement (WAS). In spite of these efforts, pilots planning to use a registered aerodrome are still expected to contact aerodrome operators to confirm CFS information is current.

Certified aerodromes
Airports are aerodromes certified under Subsection 302.03 of the CARs. Despite regulations that govern registered and non-registered aerodromes, the onus remains on a pilot to determine whether an aerodrome is safe and suitable. Regulations are in place primarily to protect those unfamiliar with an airport environment—the fare-paying public and those residing in the vicinity who could be affected by unsafe airport operations.

So it summary, an airport is a certified aerodrome as per the Canadian Flight Supplement & Water Aerodrome Supplement designations.

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