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Air Operator Designators and Call Signs

Operators with numerous flights that operate in more than one FIR or internationally may qualify to be assigned a designator and call sign. Designators and call signs are used when an operational need exists as supported by a business case and confirmation from NAV CANADA operations.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) operations conducted at or below 400ft AGL or involving small RPAs (under 25kg) will not be assigned a designator. Exceptions will apply based on special RPAS operation requests affecting controlled airspace (e.g. above 400ft AGL). Only RPA operations that require air traffic services (ATS) or will communicate with ATS via a means of communication acceptable to NAV CANADA will be considered, provided the aircraft meets the equipage requirements for the airspace in which it is flying.  In these cases, the need for a designator will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.​

NAV CANADA is the focal point for the assignment of designators and call signs to Canadian aircraft operators. Three-letter designators are used for international operations and require final approval by ICAO.  Two-letter designators are used for operations within Canadian domestic airspace and the entire approval process is done by NAV CANADA. Detailed criteria and instructions are available in the documents provided in the links below.

 During the application process, NAV CANADA verifies the information provided by the applicant and does an initial check to determine whether the requested call sign conflicts with any known call signs. If a designator / call sign is assigned, and in the event call sign confusion occurs or safety is compromised, NAV CANADA will initiate actions to avoid it happening again.  In some cases, one operator may need to change their designator / call sign.

 The following are the minimum criteria to qualify for a designator / call sign:

1.     General
a)       Air operator designators are only approved for use by Canadian air operators with a valid (Air or Private) Operating Certificate (i.e. CAR 604 or Part VII) or for the purpose of providing Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunication Network (AFTN) services.
b)       The same designator will not be registered for, or used by, more than one aircraft operating agency, aeronautical authority or service.
c)       No more than one designator or call sign will be registered for, or used by, each air operator, aeronautical authority or service.
d)       When a designator is no longer required, NAV CANADA should be informed immediately. Any such designator so released will not be reassigned for at least 60 days.
2.     Call Signs
a)       The call sign should resemble the name of the aircraft operator or its function and be distinct and dissimilar from any other already assigned.
b)       In order to reduce the length of transmission the call sign should be brief, comprising if possible one word of two or three syllables. It should not exceed two words;
c)       Air operator designators may not be used in phonetic form as call signs; however, those of long standing may be retained provided an acceptable alphabetical representation is used; and
d)       Call signs that represent aircraft manufacturers or types may not be used.
Note: In the selection of the flight identification number the following is recommended:
a)       Flight numbers should be kept as short as possible and usually be limited to three figures;
b)       Flight numbers should be selected bearing in mind the flight numbers already in use by other operating agencies in the intended control environments; and
c)       When practicable flight numbers other than those ending in a zero or five should be used.
d)       Flight numbers used by Canadian air operators are not subject to approval.  However, for flight planning purposes, the flight identifier, including the designator, must be a minimum of three and a maximum of seven characters.
3.     Required Information
a)       The requested call sign
b)       The name and address of the company;
c)       The name and contact information of a person authorized to represent the company;
d)       A list of the fleet the company operates including the aircraft type and civil aircraft registrations (NAV CANADA will use this information to verify flight activity);
e)       A business case stating the operational need for a designator.
f)        A complete copy of the Private or Air Operating Certificate issued by Transport Canada; or a legal corporate document if only applying for an AFTN address; and
g)       A copy of their flight schedule or flight log indicating the average number of flights per week.
Note: As a guideline, NAV CANADA will consider operators with a minimum number of 20 flights per week.
For more detailed information is provided in the documents below:



Domestic Designator And Telephony Assignments​

ICAO Designators for Canadian Aircraft Operating Agencies, Aeronautical Authorities and Services​