Discover Aviation

Once-in-a-lifetime experiences
COPA's Discover Aviation program has introduced 36,340 (as of end of 2023) Canadians to the world of aviation through its free introductory flights provided by our members across Canada. These members host events, use their own aircraft and donate fuel to offer these flights to encourage interest in future pilots to get started. To find an upcoming Discover Aviation event in your area, please visit our aviation event listings webpage or contact your local COPA Flight and inquire about their upcoming activities. 

COPA helps future pilots get their start

  • Anyone 8 years of age and old can become a pilot-for-the-day with COPA. We do require all participants to complete a consent waiver to participate in the program.
  • COPA will help those wishing to start their flying journey gain free access —for one (1) year—to online ground school via our program partner Hangaaar to build the necessary knowledge to become a pilot. 
  • Program participants can test their new skills and fly the world in a safe setting through Infinite Flight’s comprehensive flight simulator and experience aviation via their mobile or tablet device. Codes will be provided to those who request for a 90-day free trial to Infinite Flight Pro.
  • COPA offers thousands of dollars annually to help pilots and aspiring aviators pursue flight training through its scholarship program. Click here to learn what funding is available.

Important forms

  • Consent waiver
    To participate in our Discover Aviation events, all participants must complete a waiver. Each COPA Flight will determine if participants will fill out our printable PDF form (download here) or this online version. All PDF forms must be given to the organizers and completed forms must be forwarded to the organizers.
  • Background check
    Any event that includes minors requires our volunteer pilots to conduct a background check. Please check back, this form will soon be made available. Information on background check requirements can be found below.
  • Event registration 
    All COPA events are required to be registered to receive insurance, marketing materials and sponsorship.
  • Post-event form
    In this form, we will solicit the information of participants wishing to receive access to Hangaaar or Infinite Flight. Please check back, this form will soon be made available. 

Background checks

Volunteer background checks
COPA requires volunteer pilots for any Discover Aviation event or flight, where young people 18 and under are being flown, to complete a background check. The options below are accepted by COPA as compliant with our program requirements.

These background checks must be renewed every five years.

Background checks (expenses covered by the volunteer)

  • A background check conducted by a municipal, provincial or First Nations police service, at the pilot's expense. These checks must be renewed every five years. 
  • Government of Canada security clearance such as a reliability status, secret clearance, top secret clearance or a NEXUS/RAIC pass. These background checks must be active at the time of the Discover Aviation event

Background checks (expenses covered by COPA)
COPA offers an online background check service through Sterling Backcheck, a trusted background check partner. COPA will cover the $25 fee for its members, in good standing. 

This new option was introduced in 2022 to save COPA members time and money, and should take less than 30 minutes to complete.

Please check back for a form, where we require the first + last name and emails for our members. 

Insurance coverage

For insurance purposes, pilots who participate in the Discover Aviation program must be current members of COPA or be a member of the organizing COPA Flight that has a current COPA corporate membership.The Air Meet Insurance coverage includes event and top-up liability insurance and it is provided by COPA through the Magnes Group. 

In order to minimize any insurance coverage issues, the Discover Aviation event insurance and the Young Eagles Program cannot be combined in any way. 

Aircraft used for Discover Aviation flights are required to carry at least the following public liability and property damage insurance, as specified by Transport Canada in CAR 606.02 and the minimum Discover Aviation requirement for passenger liability as described below: 

  • For aircraft less than 2300 lbs gross take-off weight – $100,000 public liability and property damage and $100,000 passenger liability per passenger seat. 
  • For aircraft greater than or equal to 2300 lbs and less than 5000 lbs gross take-off weight -$500,000 public liability and property damage and $100,000 passenger liability per passenger seat. 
  • For aircraft greater than or equal to 5000 lbs and less than 12500 lbs gross take-off weight – $1,000,000 and Passenger Liability CAR minimum of $300,000 for each passenger seat. 

Aerobatic maneuvers and/or other non-standard flying are strictly prohibited. 

Hull-in-motion insurance and pilot life insurance are not requirements for this program and COPA’s insurance policy does not provide for these protections. 

To further protect pilots providing Discover Aviation flights, COPA’s insurance provides for $1,000,000 Combined Single Limit Third Party Bodily Injury (including Passenger Liability) and Property Damage each occurrence. This coverage and limit are in excess of the liability coverage carried by the pilot / owner of the aircraft, including the minimum(s) of $100,000 or $300,000 per seat Passenger Liability depending on the gross take-off weight of the aircraft involved.  

The organizers from the COPA Flight as well as COPA members and non-members who are, for example, a marshaller, escort, or other volunteer (including pilots who spend part of their time engaged in ground volunteer duties) are covered for Third Party Bodily Injury and/or Property Damage while so engaged. 

Safety requirements

Who can be a volunteer pilot
Any licensed pilot can participate as volunteer pilot for COPA’s Discover Aviation events, subject to the following conditions. The pilot must: 

  • Be a current COPA member 
  • Have completed a background check if minors are being flown
  • Have an appropriate and current Pilot Licence or Permit, with passenger carrying privilege, for the aircraft being flown 
  • Meet all Transport Canada recency requirements including a minimum of five takeoffs and landings within the previous six months in the category and class of aircraft to be used. Ref: CAR  401.05 Recency Requirements  

Note: No financial compensation is permitted for your time or aircraft operating expenses, and tax receipts will not be issued. Neither COPA nor the Discover Aviation program has a charitable status. 

What kind of aircraft can be used? Aircraft must:

  • Be Canadian registered, 
  • Carry on board all documentation required by Transport Canada, including proof of liability insurance coverage
  • Be authorized for carrying passengers in Canada. These aircraft types are:
    • Certified Aircraft, including aeroplanes, helicopters, gliders and balloons (Standard Certificate of Airworthiness
    • Amateur-built aircraft including aeroplanes, helicopters, gliders, gyroplanes and balloons (Special Certificate of Airworthiness – Amateur-built
    • Owner-maintenance aircraft (Special Certificate of Airworthiness – Owner-Maintenance
    • Limited Class aircraft, including warbirds and other limited class aircraft that are approved for passenger-carrying (Special Certificate of Airworthiness – Limited)  
    • Advanced ultralights  

Additional stipulations for one-off flights occurring outside of a scheduled event day: 

  • Aircraft provisions as outlined above apply in their entirety 
  • Flights must occur at a registered aerodrome in Canada  

Basic Ultralights
Basic ultralights are not authorized for Discover Aviation flying due to their prohibition on carrying passengers. One exception is that they can be used if the pilot is an ultralight instructor, the instructor has notified TC that he or she is operating a flight school, as required by CAR 406.05, the Junior Aviator is 14 years of age or older and the flight is conducted as an ultralight introductory instructional flight. Insurance requirements including $100,000 passenger liability insurance must still be met in this circumstance. 

Other owners of basic ultralight aircraft are welcome to participate in Discover Aviation events, but their aircraft can only be used for static display and for ground familiarization. 

Aircraft and pilots checklist  

  • COPA membership status or the COPA Flight corporate membership status 
  • Current Pilot License or Permit, with passenger carrying privilege, for the aircraft being flown 
  • Valid Medical Certificate 
  • Transport Canada recency requirements including minimum of five takeoffs and landings within previous six months in category and class of aircraft to be used 
  • Aircraft must be Canadian registered 
  • All documentation required by Transport Canada on board of aircraft, including proof of public liability insurance and property damage applicable aircraft to be used 
  • Passenger liability insurance minimum coverage for all seats as per CAR 606.02 
  • Aircraft must be authorized for carrying passengers in Canada 
  • Aerobatic maneuvers or other non-standard flying is prohibited 

Event planning

Planning a Discover Aviation event? Please ensure to fill out the form linked here to obtain your Certificate of Insurance and to request marketing materials/background checks for your volunteer pilots. Please see the volunteer pilot section for alternative background checks that accepted by COPA.

ATC/FSS Notification
If the event is to be held at or near an airport that has a Flight Service Station or Control Tower then the facility supervisor should be notified of the event a few weeks in advance. Depending on the expected traffic, NAV CANADA may increase the number of Tower or FSS staff on duty to accommodate the additional traffic. The NAV CANADA facility supervisor will need to know: event date start and completion times approximate number of flights aircraft types involved route and altitude frequency for communications if outside of the Control Zone or Mandatory Frequency area.

Consent waivers
All participants in the Discover Aviation program must complete the following liability waivers. See below for a variety of waiver forms your COPA Flight can use. If your participants are using the online version, please ensure they are aware to either forward their confirmation email to your COPA Flight or are prepared to show your registration desk at your event. The consent waivers do include a photo release component, if the participant does not agree to having their photo released, they can still participate in the program. Please ensure any photographers are aware of their request.

  • the print-friendly version / fillable form (please scan and send completed forms to communications@copanational.org or send by mail to the office)
  • the online version (participants must show submission receipts to COPA Flight on the day of the event)

Event briefing template
Click here for an event brief template for Discover Aviation event organizers to complete and share with your fellow COPA Flight members. An event brief serves as a map, of sorts, charting the course for you and your COPA Flight from point A (at the very beginning of your event planning journey) to point B (a successful event). By using an event brief, your COPA Flight will ensure all the moving pieces fall into place without any surprises.

Event materials
Upon completion of the form below, COPA may have event materials such as certificates, banners and other marketing items available for use for our local COPA Flights. Many of these are one-time gifts.

Suggested materials and equipment

  • Discover Aviation pull-up banner and table cloth
  • Tables and chairs
  • Signs directing cars to exact location on the airport and for various stations such as sign-up, collecting forms, issuing certificates etc.
  • Pencils and pens
  • Name tag labels

Event management tool
COPA require COPA Flights to use any particular event management tool. There are many options available, including Eventbrite, Kambeo.io, and a customized tool available to members that was developed by COPA member Jeff Page (BlueSky@DiscoverAviation.org).

Volunteers
For an efficient and safe operation, volunteers should be assigned to various roles such as:

  • Checking all pilot and aircraft documents.
  • Verifying, completing and checking signed waiver and registration forms.
  • Briefing participants on aircraft safety.
  • Escorting participants to and from aircraft.
  • Completing the Discover Aviation certificate for program participants and present it to them after their flight.
  • Monitoring the safety of the ground and air operation (a pilot with no other duties should be dedicated to this role).
  • Taking photos to capture the event and to send to communications@copanational.org for COPA to promote

Insurance coverage is provided for all organizers and volunteers.

Ground school/safety briefing
Once registered, participants should go to a designated area for ground school. A static display aircraft or a model should be available. A briefing must be provided to everyone who will fly, emphasizing flight line safety and acceptable behavior. A walk-around of the static display aircraft or model should follow the flight line safety briefing. Aircraft components should be explained to assist the participants being flown in understanding how aircraft work.

As a minimum, the following topics should be covered in the ground school:

  • Ramp procedures for approaching and walking away from the aircraft 
  • Aircraft entry and exit procedures
    • How to climb into the aircraft
    • How to unbuckle seatbelts and operate the exit door in the event of an emergency)
  • In flight procedures
    • Use of headphones
    • Remaining quiet when the pilot signals to do so for radio communications
    • Landing and takeoff

Ground school should be limited to about 15-20 minutes. While the ground school is taking place the registration personnel can allocate the participants to aircraft. 

Either the pilot or a designated, qualified person must escort the participants to and from the aircraft. The flight line should be clearly marked with a barricade or other distinctive features and all participants briefed that no one is permitted on the flight line side of the barricade unless they are accompanied by a designated, qualified person. 

Program incentives for participants
Participants of the Discover Aviation program are entitled 12-months of free online ground school via COPA’s partner, Hangaaar and a 90-day free trial of Infinite Flight Pro. To sign your participants up, please provide COPA with their first and last names, as well as a unique email address.  

Sponsorship materials
COPA encourages our COPA Flights to solicit sponsorship to enhance the overall experience of your events. Please click here for guiding materials your COPA Flight can use to improve start and maintain relationships with local businesses and aviation groups.