A day off in Toronto, with the promise of some sunshine, gave Paul Dunn the opportunity to take some photos at the very photogenic Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
Toronto City Airport is located on an island just south of the city centre, and allows passengers to arrive by air direct to the city centre, as opposed to the main airport (Toronto Pearson International) which is approximately 14 miles to the northwest of the city. The airport is named in honour of Canadian First World War ace Billy Bishop and is accessed by a ferry from the mainland, although a pedestrian tunnel is under construction at the moment.
The airport dates back to the 1930s, with its island location limiting the length of its runways, meaning it is only capable of handling smaller aircraft; an agreement signed in 1983 also prohibits the operation of jets at the airport, although this is currently under review.
With a full day off in Toronto, and the promise of good weather, I decided to spend my time around the airport taking photos. The best views of the airport are from the ferry port at Hanlan’s Point, but as I arrived in the evening, with ferries finishing shortly, I stayed on the waterfront side initially. I wandered towards the airport, for a looksee as much as anything, but I was surprised to see a P-51 arrive in the last light of the day! Turns out the Toronto Airshow was taking place the following weekend, although I wasn’t aware of that at the time.
Next day I got the first ferry to Hanlan’s Point to shoot some arrivals onto runway 26. There is very little variation in movements; the vast majority are Dash 8 Q400s, with a small number of GA movements. The main operator is regional carrier Porter, with City Airport being the hub for the company’s fleet of 26 Q400/Q400NextGen aircraft. Porter is currently negotiating with local authorities to upgrade facilities at the airport, including lengthening the runway to allow it to operate the Bombardier C-series jets the airline has on order.
Other Q400s belong to Sky Regional Airlines, operating under the Air Canada Express branding. The airline exclusively operates services to Montreal-Trudeau Airport, in contrast to the 19 destinations offered by Porter.
Although the background and location were really good, it was a little early in the day for the light from there, and a bit glary, so I decided to check out the other end of the airfield to try to find a spot to shoot some departures. You do have to be a little discreet at the departure end, as there is a section of beach which is defined as ‘clothing optional’; fortunately that part of the beach was well away from the airport, so I wasn’t going to get hassled for having a camera. I managed to find a spot where there were good views over the airport, and shot some departures from there.
The backdrop from here was really stunning, with the CN Tower, toronto’s most recognisable landmark, looming large over have airport.
There was something of a crosswind, and one Air Canada Express Q400 caught a bit of a gust, and its landing turned into a low pass, resulting in a go around, which was quite cool, for me at least!
Also of interest was a RCAF CF-118 Hornet, which did a flypast down the display line of the airshow, which runs close to the east end of the airport. The aircraft then departed to Pearson International, from where it operated during the weekend air show.
From there, it was back to the ferry port, to shoot some more arrivals, in some nice afternoon sunshine. Along with the Q400s, there are a small number of GA movements, and also a few helicopters. Notable are the smart AW139s of Ornge, the Ontario Air Ambulance.
Later in the afternoon, I got the ferry back to the city, and shot some departures from the other side of the runway, with the light in the early evening favouring this. The angle and backdrop were not as nice as the ferry port, but at least it gave some variety in shots.
A very enjoyable and relaxed day’s shooting, even though there really isn’t a lot of variety at the airport. That will, of course, change if the decision is made to allow jets to operate – with such a unique backdrop, a few more types and colours to shoot would certainly not go amiss!