November 29, 2023

CYKZ is closed

Jon Robinson

— 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 announced that it would be permanently closing the airport on November 30, 2023, impacting 200 to 300 aircraft. As of November 27th, there was one aircraft left a Buttonville, a de-registered Beechcraft Musketeer (B19, cancelled Certificate of Registration on September 12, 2022). With flat tires, de-registered and an aircraft owner not responding to the emails and telephone calls from the airport’s management, the aircraft may end up on a trailer and sold for scrap. It is reported that some resourceful pilots are attempting to buy the aircraft and put it back into flying condition. But that’s a long shot.

On Friday November 24, a paving company began grinding off the numbers and runway markings on runway 15/33. On November 16th, runway 03/21 was closed and the markings ground off. With runway 15/33 closing at 11:00 am EST, a few intrepid aviators flew in for a few touch and goes and full stop landings. With less than 15 minutes left on the clock, three Cessna aircraft (172 and 150) flew in for the final experience. Based upon the radio calls, one Cessna 172 flew in from the Ottawa area, sadly arriving at 11:02 and performed a low and over on runway 15/33 and then departed the area. On a personal note, standing on a closed runway watching heavy equipment grinding up the runway was a bit depressing. I began flying at Buttonville in 1993, creating lifelong friends and memories.

Chris Nowrouzi, CEO of FLYGTA Airlines, began his aviation career on the ramp at Buttonville, a flight instructor leading up to co-founding FLYGTA Airlines. Operating out of Buttonville, with a departure lounge, pilot onboarding, recurrent training and maintenance operations, FLYGTA’s charter business prospered during their years at Buttonville (and the other airports they operate from). Chris Nowrouzi reports: “I grew up at Buttonville. I remember in 2005 when I started working there, seeing over 500 aircraft on the ramp and in the hangars, amongst which were nearly 50 owned by the flight school. Buttonville was exceptionally busy, with an aircraft waiting at position 20 for takeoff, and another 10 in the circuit. This was a gem which will be a part of me forever. People like Dan Matovic, and Sylvie Snutch, have had the biggest impacts on me in my career with all their advice. Thank you to all those who held a part in this historical airport. Gone but never forgotten.”

David R. Cox, Buttonville Flying Club Safety Officer (COPA Flight 44) was licensed in 1963 and has been flying out of Buttonville since 1997 reports: “I have been visiting Buttonville daily for the past two weeks, watching and experiencing the end of an era. While I have relocated my aircraft to the Oshawa Executive Airport, I will truly miss the Buttonville experience, which I believe is unique in the Greater Toronto Area.”

Marvin Kalchman, discovered the passion for aviation later in life, moving his advanced ultralight aircraft from Edenvale to Buttonville in 2021 after beginning flight training in 2018. With a 20 minute drive from his home to Buttonville, the move increased his opportunity to fly. Recently Marvin completed his transition to a Recreational Permit at Buttonville. Marvin reports: “the concierge service delivered by Buttonville Flightline was exceptional, with the staff always looking at my aircraft and advising me of any issues. There was never a problem with requesting a pull of my aircraft even with short notice. The comradery of the Buttonville Flying Club introduced me to new flying friends willing to share their experiences and advice to his low time pilot.”

During November, the airport began moving furniture and selling off assets such as tugs, snow ploughs and terminal furniture (to name a few). With most of the tenants moved out, the terminal building has become a ghost town and is eerily silent. The hangars are completely empty and are awaiting their final fate of being dismantled and sold for scrap. With the clock counting down, the management has been motivated to sell off or give away the remaining assets. One outcome of the airport closure is the creation of an airport closure playbook, which is rumored may be used for the closure of the Toronto Downsview airport (CYZD).

The last day of the airport will see emotions running high for staff, management, tenants and pilots alike. Facebook and other social networking platforms have been quite active with comments, pictures and videos being posted with both emotional and nostalgic themes. 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.