Buttonville closing in a few weeks
November 15, 2023 By Phil Lightstone
An airport closure rarely happens in Canada. In 2009, the Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport (CYKZ) announced their plans to sell the airport to property developers. On May 31, 2023, the airport management formally announced that it would be permanently closing the airport on November 30, 2023. Roughly 200 to 300 aircraft have been looking for new accommodations.
The announcement on May 31, including a hard stop date, was unexpected but not surprising for many operators and tenants. Aircraft left at Buttonville near the end of November may be faced with the challenge and cost of being trailered out of the airport. In an email, airport management reports: “While the terminal and offices will be open until the end, we are recommending that your final departure from the field should be between October 31 and November 15, 2023.” As of November 8, there were roughly 40 aircraft remaining at the airport including seven Canadian Flyer’s (flight school) aircraft. Canadian Flyers will be relocating to the Kawartha Lakes Municipal Airport (CNF4).
Robert Seaman, Vice President, Airport Operations, Buttonville Municipal Airport, reports: “As you may know, our airport is slated to close permanently on November 30. That said, runway decommissioning needs to occur before that. Accordingly, we are starting work on the smaller or our two runways (03/21) on November 20. From that date on we encourage operators to check their NOTAMs before heading our way. Runway 15/33 will be closed once the work on the smaller one is done. We will accept and service aircraft until that is no longer an option.”
On November 15, a NOTAM was issued (J7215/23) indicating that Runway 03/12 would be closed effective November 16 at 12:00 Zulu. As the last days wind down, the airport environment will change with short notice.
Maintenance shops like Air Partners Inc., Aviation Unlimited and Leggat Aviation Ltd., have been tirelessly moving (and decluttering) a mountain of hardware, aircraft records and files, accumulated over decades of operations. Balancing servicing their customers with an impending deadline, some of the maintenance shops started their physical move in October with activities ramping up during the first week of November. On November 9, Air Partners had two aircraft in their shop in the final stages of repairs. During the first week of November the maintenance shops became eerily empty. A sad reflection of not only the closure of the airport, but the impending destruction of infrastructure which has been on the property since 1963.
On November 8, the Buttonville Flying Club (COPA Flight 44), held its last meeting in the airport’s main terminal. A potluck dinner was held with over 40 members in attendance, with eight members joining in over ZOOM conferencing. Club President David Sprague announced that a location has been secured for future meetings beginning in January 2024. Nick Bartzis, President of the STS Group will be hosting the BFC’s monthly Wednesday evening meeting (second Wednesday of most months) at his new location in Markham, ON. Checkout the BFC’s website for more information.
Nick Bartzis reports: “It is a tragedy to lose an iconic airport in a great location providing benefits to the community. I think that there is so many people who have passed through the airport making a contribution to the community as a whole. A lot of people who I’ve never meet before, have called to share their stories about flying out of Buttonville. How many people have flown on commercial flights, with pilots trained at Buttonville? Where are the future aviators going to come from if we are closing airports in urban centres where there is a high density of future commercial pilots? For me, flying clubs, like the Buttonville Flying Club, are a link between old and new pilots. One way of learning is hearing other pilot’s experiences. Sharing, will help to create and build enthusiasm in young future pilots. The absence of the link leaves kids to dream with no understanding of how to start, which is important to bridge the gap, subsequently my support of the Buttonville flying Club’s monthly meetings. In 1998, one member of BFC, helped to mold me as an international flying pilot. Billy Lowe, (aka Bahama Billy), sat down with me for an afternoon educating me about flying into the US and the Bahamas. Billy got me excited about spreading my wings to cross the US Canada Border. As a result, I’m happy to support the Buttonville Flying Club.”
The last day of the airport’s operation will see emotions running high for staff, management, tenants and pilots alike. With the move away from stick and rudder skills to AI enhanced computer augmented aircraft, the next generation of aviators may lose the romance experienced with flight. Regional airports like Buttonville, are a meeting place for aviators and aviation enthusiasts alike, where the love of aviation can be shared and reinforced. The closure of any airport detracts from our rich aviation culture. What’s in the next chapter for the displaced aircraft, maintenance shops and the people from Buttonville, only time will tell.