Business and General Aviation at Pickering Airport

From group evacuations, to moving corporate or government decision makers and technical specialists, Business Aviation (BA) is seeing a major bump from the fears of a global COVID-19 pandemic.  Business aviation is once again showing the important logistical role it plays in Canada. But a new restrictive BA reservation system at Toronto Pearson International Airport and a long-term goal of squeezing out short-notice, small aircraft movements from Pearson could put this in jeopardy. The new airport in Pickering, although designed primarily for passenger jets, will play an important role providing the new capacity needed to support both Business and General Aviation (GA).

The view from the cockpit of a Diamond DA40, a four seat GA aircraft built in London Ontario. The DA40-NG gets 8 liters / 100 km, less than the average car and flies straight as an arrow connecting the back of beyond Canada to Toronto asphalt free.

The latest GTAA master plan clearly intends to reduce short-haul flights and business jet movements to free up capacity for larger passenger jets. Pickering Airport will be part of the solution by picking up both the short haul movements squeezed out of Pearson as well as up to half of its business jet activity.  General aviation will also benefit. This sector is an often misunderstood but critically important part of the Canadian aviation ecosystem. From low-end piston engine aircraft to fire-breathing special use turbine bush planes, GA connects the back-of-beyond Ontario to the heart of Toronto.

Today GA has mostly been squeezed out of Pearson by high costs and lack of capacity, but special use aviation remains. This includes police and air ambulance aircraft that enhance the safety, health and security, for us all. This will shift in part to Pickering. Advanced flight training is also expected take place at the new Pickering Airport.

General and business aviation will be among the first tenants at Pickering Airport creating immediate economic activity from aircraft based at the airport ( shown ) as well as from many transient aircraft ( not shown).

Time is of the essence for business jets and turboprops since their goal is to move high-value technical, business and government leadership on short notice to the locations needed in a timely fashion.  Up to now this role has been provided by flight operations based mostly at Pearson airport, but capacity constraints at Pearson have forced the introduction in 2019 of one of North America’s most draconian BA flight reservation systems.

Pearson now requires reservation for both GA and Business jet traffic. Reservations can be made days in advance but they can,and do, refuse landing rights for a requested date or time. Just being authorized to use the reservation system can take seven days. Even if granted, a small jet can spend up to an hour or more on the ground before taking off on a flight to Pearson, due to a traffic restriction system called flow Control. This makes Business jet traffic between other busy airports and Pearson especially problematic and makes arrival times and fuel loads unpredictable. The FBOs (Fixed Base Operators) that support BA at Pearson are world-class service providers and can secure a reservation for a fee but have no influence on flow control. Today Pearson is one of the most expensive airports in North America for a Business jet to use.

Left corner- Graph from the CBAA report: Business Aviation and Top Performing Companies 2017: North American Edition. Background, SF50 Business jet, one of a new wave of efficient advanced technology jets entering the marketplace. ( photos by Mark Brooks)

The importance of BA as a competitive tool is well established. Companies that use Corporate aircraft to transport key business and technical personnel outperform nonusers by 70% according to the CBAA (Canadian Business Aviation Association).  Pickering Airport will have the capacity to fill this demand and will follow the models in use at other major Canadian and US airports. At Pickering a pilot will simply file a flight plan choosing the arrival time that he would like and after landing have a choice of parking at several competing FBOs. Due to this advantage, Pickering is expected to become the preeminent business airport for the Toronto region. Diverting smaller aircraft to Pickering will also improve Pearson’s traffic flow and improve its passenger jet capacity.

Among the first users of Pickering Airport will be the BA and GA communities. It is important to listen to their needs and to set aside the space for general aviation.  This should include a GA ramp, space for hangars and providing a competitive environment for support businesses.


References :

COVID-19 a boom for Business Aviation 

Toronto Pearson’s new BA reservation system 

COPA on the economic value of GA in Canada 




6 thoughts on “Business and General Aviation at Pickering Airport

  1. Interesting Mark . What date do you estimate this “Pickering” to be in place (landing aircraft), and in what (runway) configuration? What construction costs/landing fees to you estimate will be charged? What “company” do you expect to undertake this project, and in what configuration as in For Profit or NFP. If a NFP lease as with current NAP airports what lease tenure do you expect? How do you expect this “identity” to negotiate with the GTAA if other (as suggested by Polonsky) and how do you expect the parties to the GTAA lease agreement to solve Article 44 of that agreement?

    Given Oshawa is next door, how do you feel that situation will resolve itself, given primarily that its’ landing fees (bo low) will render Pickering non viable to any owner/operator. What percentage of Corporate operators at GTAA require more than 5000′ ..4000′. now and into the future? What do you estimate the costs of increasing Oshawa to 5000′?.. Widening to 150′. … increasing glide angles to 4 & 5 degrees. What is your view of the possibility the Minister Transport may conclude it is in his (and the national) best (financial) interest to shelve Pickering for 40 years, reassume Oshawa into his NAP system, and put it out on a 100 year lease to a NFP corporation as he has done to GTAA, undertaking a model based on London City UK, with options and possible expansion northward 1-2000′ when and if required?

    What is your view of where aviation will be in 2050-2070, what it will need, and what expert opinion leads you to your conclusions?

    What real information leads you to believe other than your own speculation that the GTAA has revised the estimates of its own airport runway expansion requirements stated in its own current master plan to year 2037:… They being to date none, nada , zip. ……No runways , no terminals???

    Do you have any information that suggests that these estimates will be revised at the GTAA AGM in May?

    PS not everybody can land at 5PM. Scheduling is required. Things traditionally tend to be quieter at noon.
    read ur COPA piece… amusing. Good stuff for the Pudknockers.;-))

    1. All good questions to be answered by the privately organized responses to the expected RFP transport will drop after it releases the KPMG report. Assuming politics doesn’t force another delay.

      As to the numbers, I have the advantage of access to the all privately funded not for profit airpark business case From 2011 and the newer much larger Durham Gateway one.

      I took the lowest most conservative numbers For 2028 and assume that Oshawa stays open and maximize its current business plan as specified ( which is to not extend its runway ). We also assumed that the GTAA meets its masterplan targets ( doubtful, but always give them the benefit of the doubt, as they are a world class team).

      As to the GTAA article 44 that was forfeit the moment they popped the new draconian flight restrictions into place. But have no doubt, it doesn’t take a shark to try and turn a profit from scarcity.
      Maybe the new executive will challenge pickering, maybe with arguments on what is capacity? It will be a short fight, But could always delay the project by another year or two, a reasonable Out come given the billions at stake.

      Should be interesting to watch!

      1. As to the COPA piece, will post a PDF of what they picked up When I get some time ( flying today). Apparently they had some layout issues with an outsourced vendor so will get you a real copy.

        Always fun to read your responses!

    1. Yup, have it. Our conclusion stands. The assumptions made to avoid having to make a decision have already slipped, no high speed rail for example.

      But this report could now be a basis for a new rail announcement, extension of the runway ay bishop and providing the funds needed for union west, so let’s see what happens.

      Our numbers are similar at every level, just the assumptions differ. Hopefully the Feds put their money where the assumptions are, otherwise a privately funded Pickering becomes irresistible.

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