Aerodrome Safety Circular (ASC) No. 2004-023

ASC 2004-023


Pyrotechnic and Firearm Safety at Canadian Airports


Improper use of firearms and pyrotechnics by wildlife control personnel at Canadian airports has resulted in a number of accidents and incidents in recent years. These accidents have included not only damage to vehicles and other property, but also injuries to wildlife control personnel.

This safety circular provides airport operators with pyrotechnic and firearm safety guidelines to be applied during wildlife management activities. The circular recommends and describes effective strategies to reduce safety risks associated with the use of firearms and pyrotechnics in airport environments.


For the purposes of airport wildlife management, pyrotechnics refer to ammunition that is fired from shotguns, starter and flare pistols, and purpose-built launchers. These pyrotechnics include shell crackers, flares, firecrackers, rockets and mortars. The loud and abrupt noises emitted by some pyrotechnics are similar to those of shotguns, making them particularly effective against game birds that are familiar with the effect of firearms. On firing, some pyrotechnics also deliver a flash of light to provide an additional visual deterrent.

Pyrotechnics are highly recommended for rapid bird dispersal at airports, and are particularly effective when used as part of a well-balanced wildlife management program.

Firearms are important wildlife management tools, as well, and are particularly valuable in situations that call for the immediate removal of persistent animals. Firearms are highly restricted, however, and should be used only in cases where all other control methods have failed.


Given the human health and safety risks associated with the use of pyrotechnics and firearms in airport environments, Transport Canada strongly recommends that airport operators comply with the attached guidelines to ensure the safety of personnel working in the field.


These guidelines are intended to:

  • raise awareness of safety issues related to pyrotechnics and firearms,
  • promote the safe use of these devices for wildlife control, and
  • reduce the incidence of pyrotechnic- or firearm-related accidents.

For more information, contact a regional inspector of Transport Canada, Aerodromes and Air Navigation, or call 1-800-305-2059.

These documents are available electronically at:


Original signed by;

Thomas R. Fudakowski, Acting Director
Aerodromes and Air Navigation

Pyrotechnic and Firearm Safety at Canadian Airports

General Guidelines for Pyrotechnic Use at Airports

Pyrotechnics are most effective when deployed immediately on arrival of birds at airports, ensuring the animals do not become comfortable in the environment. For maximum effect in dispersing birds and preventing habituation, pyrotechnics should be integrated with other control methods—including distress calls, propane cannons and shooting by permits. The occasional culling of a few birds further deters habituation by providing threat reinforcement.

Safety Rules for Pyrotechnic Use on Airports

  1. Pyrotechnic scare cartridges and launchers should be used only by trained staff who have a clear understanding and working knowledge of these devices.
  2. Always purchase high-quality, purpose-built pyrotechnic launchers and cartridges. These devices provide a greater safety margin than modified products originally designed for other applications.
  3. Operators should wear proper eye and ear protection at all times.
  4. Check the barrel after firing each round. Clean barrel as needed.
  5. Store pyrotechnics in cool, dry and secure places to prevent product degradation and restrict access to qualified personnel only.
  6. Never fire into a wind. Fire in a manner and a direction to cause birds to fly away from aircraft movement areas.
  7. Never fire towards vehicles, aircraft, people, buildings, dry fields or any other flammable materials or liquids.
  8. Exercise extreme caution when firing pyrotechnics from inside vehicles. Operators must ensure that their arms are fully extended outside windows, and that launch devices are held above vehicle rooflines.
  9. Prevent FOD (Foreign Object Debris) by collecting all pyrotechnic debris from airside areas.
  10. Wait 30 minutes before removing misfires or duds from launch devices. Ensure that both the chamber and barrel are safely aimed when removing these cartridges.
  11. Duds, misfires and damaged pyrotechnic cartridges should be soaked in water for 24 to 48 hours prior to disposal.
  12. Ensure operating instructions accompany pyrotechnic launchers at all times.
  13. Do not attempt to modify pyrotechnic cartridges.

Loading and Firing Pyrotechnics (screamers and bangers)

  1. Load and discharge all launchers according to manufacturers’ instructions.
  2. Insert a pyrotechnic device into the pistol according to instructions in the launcher’s manual. Screamers load hollow end first; bangers load fuse end first. Check that the pyro fits loosely into the muzzle end. If force is required, remove the pyrotechnic and clean the muzzle, otherwise the pyro may not function.
  3. Hold pistol away from the body and fire in the direction of birds. Screamers travel more than 60 metres; bangers travel more than 25 metres.

Transporting Pyrotechnics

  1. Cartridges must be transported in closed, non-flammable containers away from any source of ignition. Use of open trays containing multiple pyrotechnic cartridges is not recommended.
  2. Smoking is prohibited when transporting and deploying cartridges, and at all times when airside.
  3. Never transport launchers loaded with crimped blanks or pyrotechnic cartridges.

General Guidelines for Use of Firearms on Airports

Firearms are heavily restricted and should be used only:

  • after all other control methods have failed;
  • in cases that require immediate removal of persistent and highly hazardous wildlife; and
  • for the occasional killing of birds, or to reinforce perceived threats and help to prevent wildlife from becoming habituated to auditory scaring devices.

Federal law strictly regulates the acquisition and use of firearms. For more information, contact the Canadian Firearms Centre at 1-800-731-4000, or visit

Federal law also requires that all firearm usage related to wildlife management activities must be undertaken only by licensed, specially trained personnel. Additional federal and provincial regulations protect many species of wildlife. To determine which regulations apply, contact local regulatory authorities or a regional office of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Airports are also advised to work closely with local police authorities to ensure the use of firearms meets city or municipal legal requirements. Written authorization, for example, identifies personnel responsible for firearms use and fosters local collaboration by ensuring police are fully aware of the scope and purpose of airport wildlife-management firearms activities.

Firearms Licences

As of January 1, 2001, anyone who owns, uses or seeks to acquire a firearm or ammunition in Canada must possess a valid firearms licence. The licence must be renewed every five years.

Licences for Canadian adults include:

Possession-Only Licence (POL)
  • A POL permits the licensee to obtain ammunition, own and use firearms, and to borrow firearms in the same class as indicated on the licence.
  • POLs are no longer available to new applicants. Those who possess POLs, however, can renew if they continue to own at least one firearm and apply before their licence expires.
  • A POL does not permit acquisition of additional firearms, including those received as gifts or inheritances. Persons wishing to acquire more firearms must upgrade to a Possession and Acquisition Licence (see below).
Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL)
  • A PAL permits the acquisition of firearms, and is the only licence available to new applicants.
  • Applicants must first successfully complete tests related to the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (see below for exceptions).
  • Individuals aged 18 and over can apply for PALs by submitting completed copies of form CAFC 1039, Application for a Licence Under the Firearms Act (PAL). Copies of this form can be downloaded from or obtained by calling 1-800-731-4000.
  • Applicants who wish to be licensed for handguns and other restricted or prohibited firearms must also successfully complete tests related to the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course.
Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC)
  • A valid FAC issued under previous law is comparable to a PAL.
  • FACs are no longer issued. Persons who own firearms and possess FACs must apply for PALs before their FACs expire.
  • POLs and PALs specify the class or classes of firearms the licensees may own or acquire. The three classes are:
    • Non-restricted: ordinary rifles and shotguns
    • Restricted: mainly handguns
    • Prohibited : automatic and converted automatic firearms, handguns with a barrel length of 105 mm or less, .25 or .32 calibre handguns, and other firearms prohibited under the criminal code.
  • Only non-restricted firearms are permitted for use at airports.
Business Firearms Licence

Under federal legislation, an airport must maintain a business firearms licence to possess and acquire firearms and ammunition. All wildlife management personnel who handle firearms must be listed on the licence, along with PAL numbers, firearm serial numbers, and registration certificate numbers.

Note that business firearms licences are site-specific; airport authorities that operate more than one facility must acquire individual licences for each.

Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC)

The CFSC was launched in 1993 to familiarize applicants with firearm laws and safe-handling practices. All airport personnel should complete CFSC training prior to assuming wildlife management duties.

Under the Firearms Act, PALs are issued only once applicants pass written and practical CFSC tests, unless:

  • Prior to January 1, 1995, the applicant passed a firearms-safety course that was "designated as equivalent" by the Attorney General of Manitoba or Quebec; or
  • A chief firearms officer (CFO) has certified that the applicant’s knowledge of firearms laws and safe-handling practices meets the standards required by the licensing regulations.

As of January 1, 2003, the Firearms Act requires gun owners to have valid registration certificates for all firearms, including non-restricted rifles and shotguns; all restricted and prohibited firearms registered under previous law were to be re-registered by this date, as well.

Persons who have not yet registered non-restricted firearms, or re-registered restricted and prohibited firearms, are in violation of federal law. These persons should take immediate steps to register, or dispose of, their firearms lawfully.

Firearms owned on December 1, 1998, can be registered free online through Persons wishing to submit paper applications may call 1-800-731-4000 and ask for form 972.

Guidelines for Firearm Safety on Airports
  1. Use of firearms by wildlife management personnel at airports should be undertaken only in close co-operation with all airport staff.
  2. Wildlife management personnel who use firearms must be experienced in both field biology and firearms use.
  3. Never point loaded or unloaded firearms at anyone. At airports, it is recommended to carry firearms pointed toward the ground.
  4. Never keep a firearm loaded, even with the breech open.
  5. Examine firearms and liners daily. If these appear faulty or defective, report immediately as unserviceable to appropriate authorities.
  6. Handle cartridges carefully to ensure they don’t become distorted, damaged or wet.
  7. Whenever using firearms, personnel should wear appropriate apparel that includes:
    • effective eye and ear protection,
    • long-sleeved clothing to help prevent burns caused by misfires, and
    • form-fitting gloves specifically designed for weapons use.
  8. Due to their relatively short lethal range, shotguns are safer than, and therefore preferred over, rifles for wildlife control.
  9. Never fire across active runways.
  10. Prevent FOD (Foreign Object Debris) by collecting all empty casings from airside areas.
  11. Never load or discharge firearms while inside a vehicle.
Transportation and Storage of Firearms
  1. Firearms may be transported on airports only when they are unloaded and rendered inoperable by means of a secure locking device.
  2. All firearms should be stored upright in racks. Electrically operated racks are recommended. Locks on these units may be opened by either inserting a key in the vehicle’s ignition or by triggering a hidden switch.
  3. Shotguns and rifles left in unattended vehicles must be locked in racks or other secure compartments.
  4. Lock all unattended vehicles that contain firearms.
  5. Firearms must be unloaded with the safety on when stored inside vehicles.
  6. Do not hide firearms inside vehicles. Not only can firearms become dirty and unserviceable, they can also be forgotten when out of sight.
  7. Operators must never load or discharge firearms while inside vehicles.
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