November 1, 2023

Buttonville’s last days

Jon Robinson

— Text and photos 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 will be looking for new accommodation. The announcement on May 31st, including a hard 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 31st and November 15th, 2023.”

October 2023, saw a lot of winding down activities from both the airport management and tenants. While it’s simple enough for aircraft owners to fly their aircraft out to their new airport home, business tenants like maintenance shops, flight schools, charter companies, York Regional Police air unit, Top Medical and aircraft brokers have decades of “stuff” which requires sorting, packing, disposing, storing, inventorying and ultimately moving. At present, there are countless aircraft in the hangars and on the ramp.

COPA Flight 44, the Buttonville Flying Club, held its last club meeting in its club house (provided rent free by the airport management) on October 11th, 2023. With over 35 members in attendance and 15 over Zoom, the clubhouse was filled to the brim. The meeting focused on food, a view into the club’s history through the photo images captured by myself over the past 25 years and a discussion of the future of the club, led by David R. Cox. The club’s Executive and Board of Directors and many members feel that the club should continue its activities with the last three years of COVID induced reshaping the club to operate virtually. Club President and COPA Director, David Sprague presented John Chandler with COPA Director’s Award. The club will hold its last club meeting at Buttonville on November 8th in the main terminal. All are welcome.

Slowly, the airport is being transformed into a construction site. Seeing personnel with hard hats and steel toed work boots is an unusual site at most GA and BA focused airports. During the last week of October, a large, buried tank was tug up near Buttonville’s fuel farm. The construction team was able to remove the tank without rupturing the tank. It’s rumoured that there is a 500 gallon tank buried under the main terminal. Folks in the know, believe that the main terminal building will be the first to be demolished with the goal to extract the tank before major construction activities can begin.

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.