28 October 2010

Buttonville Closure Announced

After years of speculation the announcement on 27 October 2010 that Buttonville Airport is closing within five years should come as no surprise. The airport has been a money losing venture for years, propped up by subsidies paid by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority the airport is sitting on prime condo land in Markham that is worth billions. The airport is privately owned by the Sifton family and will be turned into "a vibrant, 24 hour, mixed-use community".

The question everyone is asking is where will all the private and corporate aircraft go along with all the associated businesses on the field. There are no easy answers to that question, as the Island Airport is moving small aircraft out in favour of airliners instead and most other airports within any distance of Toronto are either filled to capacity or threatened with closure themselves, like Markham Airport.

AvWeb has run the story indicating that the final nail in the coffin was declining traffic at nearby Toronto Pearson, which caused the GTAA to remove the subsidy it paid to Buttonville to keep it open and light aircraft traffic away from the International.

Here is the press release from Toronto Airways:

Media Release

Date: October 26, 2010

Subject: Future of Airport
For Immediate Publication

Markham, Ontario, CANADA – Toronto Airways Ltd. (TAL) owns and operates the Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport (CYKZ). Their resident businesses include Million Air Toronto - an established FBO of long standing and Toronto Airways Flight Training - the largest flight school in Canada. Others who call Buttonville their base include the Buttonville Flying Club, aviation college operations, corporate and business aviation charter operators, rotor craft schools, private flight operators and aircraft sales/brokerage/management firms.

Announcement of airport future . . .

Derek Sifton, President of TAL has announced today that a business agreement has now been put in place to redevelop the airport lands. Armadale Co. Limited (the parent company to TAL) and The Cadillac Fairview Corporation Limited have formed a joint venture for the development of the airport lands.

In speaking to his staff and tenants about the announcement Sifton stated “I can tell you now with certainty that in the coming years, this airport site will be closed for redevelopment under this agreement. While this will not happen tomorrow, it is going forward and will occur sometime over what we expect will be a five year period.”

“This is not the end of TAL” said Mr. Sifton. “We see this as the beginning of a further development and refinement of our business. TAL is and for some time now has been actively pursuing relocation and/or diversification plans for its aviation businesses. These plans include our customers, suppliers and the general and business aviation community. We have a lot to offer and the ability to take what we do to places where it is welcomed and needed. Now that we have concrete information to work with regarding the future of Buttonville, we can proceed on the options and opportunities and hopefully have an agreement soon with something further to announce. In the interim, it is business as usual for all of us. We have great facilities, a great team and we will continue to support this airport in the best possible manner to ensure safety, security and service responsibility.”

- 30 -

For additional information contact Robert Seaman – by telephone at (705) 250-0473 or by email at rwseaman@bizav.ca

Light Sport Aircraft in Canada - Some Background

With the upcoming visit to Ottawa this weekend (30/31 October 2010) of the first Cessna 162 Skycatcher to visit Canada I thought it was probably a good idea to review the rules for this aircraft. The C-162 is being brought to Ottawa on a demo tour by Anna Pangrazzi of the Canadian Cessna representative, Leggat Aviation.

I have written before about the C-162 in April 2008 and outlined some of the controversies surrounding the lightest plane Cessna has ever built:

*The Cessna 162 SkyCatcher in Canada

*The New Cessna 162 SkyCatcher - Three Controversies for the Price of One!

To get some updated background on this visit I contacted Transport Canada to see what the options are in 2010 for registering a C-162 in Canada. Basically not much has changed since 2008. The C-162 was designed to be a US Light Sport Aircraft and that category still does not exist in Canada. Back in 2005/06 the Transport Canada Recreational Aviation Working Group that I chaired recommended that the LSA category be adopted as an additional category in Canada. That report was accepted by TC, but it still hasn't happened and is unlikely to happen for many years to come. The reasons for that are complex, but in essence the increased workload created by the attempt by TC to allow the business aircraft sector to self-regulate and the requirement to bring all that work back in house has created so much work for TC that all other initiatives have been put on hold, including bringing LSA to Canada.

Otherwise the Cessna 162 is still a manufactured aircraft with a gross weight of 1320 lbs that doesn't fit into the basic ultralight, advanced ultralight, certified or amateur-built categories in Canada. It fits the Limited Class, but in the past TC senior staff expressed some reservations about putting the C-162 in it. The class was intended for long out of production warbirds and not new mass production aircraft. That reluctance is gone and the way seems cleared for registering imported C-162s as Limited Class aircraft under the new Limited Class rules. Putting the aircraft in the Limited Class means that maintenance must be signed off by an AME and that the aircraft cannot be used for commercial use, including flight training, although aerial work is allowed (banner towing, crop spraying). There isn't much aerial work that this small aircraft could be used for, however.

This all means that the C-162 is a viable aircraft for private ownership in Canada, but not flight school use. The requirement for AME maintenance will make the costs higher than buying a similar AULA, however.

It is also possible for flight schools to use it as a rental aircraft for solo rentals outside their flying training operating certificate, but not for flight training. I am not sure how a school would check someone out on the aircraft, though!

Meanwhile some of the controversies surrounding the 162 that I wrote about in April 2008 still remain. The outsourcing of production to Shenyang Aircraft in China is actually more controversial today than it was in 2008. Back then it was justified by the company because Cessna was out of plant capacity, but since then they have laid off more than half their workers and seem unlikely to hire many of them back in the near future. It is much harder to justify contracting out to China when more than half your own workforce is out of work.

The other controversy remaining is the 162's payload carrying capacity. Cessna still reports the 162's standard empty weight as 834 lbs, which, with full fuel (144 lbs), leaves only 342 lbs for people and baggage, making it not much of a two-seater. I am very keen to see the empty weight on the demo plane and see if it makes that empty weight or if the production bird is actually heavier or lighter. Hopefully we will all have a chance to check it out this weekend, VFR weather permitting.