Buttonville Airport, located just 29 kilometres north of downtown Toronto has a rich aviation history. CYKZ as it is designated is a part of Toronto’s history too, even if it is located in Markham, Ontario. It is a vital piece of Canadian aviation history. Its life as a business has been reported as dead many times before and reprieves have come to revive it. Sooner or later, its luck will likely run out. But, for now, life continues as usual. With that said, the Coronavirus lock-down has temporarily curtailed all of the fun flying activities for the members of the Buttonville Flying Club. So, with time to spare as we all miss our aviation pastime, it is good to consider the richness of the airport’s past. Long live CYKZ!
Fred F. Gillies was the operator of Buttonville Airport and Gillies Flying Service starting in 1953 until he retired in 1958. Buttonville Airport began to really grow as a grass airstrip in 1953 when Leggat Aviation moved its operations from Barker Field in Toronto. The airstrip became an official airport in 1962.
The grass strip ran along the pathway of 03 / 21, which was later paved, with the second runway 15 / 33 coming along afterwards in the 1980s.
The airport is located in the community and former police village of Buttonville, Ontario, which is named for settler John Button. Part of the airport property is located on land once held by Button.
In September 2009, the Sifton family, owners of the airport, announced plans to re-develop the airport from 2009 to 2016 into a mixed use of commercial, retail and residential development. In the meantime the airport will continue to operate and unknown plans for the airport operations to re-locate to another GTA airport or cease operations altogether.
On 28 October 2010, a press release announced that a joint real estate venture had purchased the 170-acre property on 7 October, which will be re-developed by Cadillac Fairview. Plans include condominiums, retail shops, and office space. Due to planning delays, in 2018 Cadillac Fairview announced the site will continue to operate as an airport until at least 2023.
In January 2020, the 170-acre Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport site is being put up for sale by Cadillac Fairview and Armadale Co. Ltd.
“We can confirm that after forming a joint venture almost 10 years ago, Cadillac Fairview and our partner, the Sifton Family, have made a joint decision and are in the process of putting our positions in the Buttonville airport site for sale,” said a statement from Cadillac Fairview manager of external communications and corporate communications Anna Ng in response to a query from RENX.
“At Cadillac Fairview, we are constantly looking at ways to evolve our portfolio, and after a strategic review of our development program we have decided to focus our efforts on our downtown Toronto land bank, which includes the recent purchase of the East Harbour lands, as well as the densification of our existing retail portfolio.”
The Other BFC
The Brampton Flying Club (BFC) owns and operates the Brampton Flight Centre. The Brampton Flight Centre includes the airport, tenants and services.
The costs to purchase an airplane have changed dramatically over the years due mostly to the cost for manufacturers to insure against the liabilities inherent in this kind of business and the costs for materials, especially materials that are oil based.
On the anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s historic solo Atlantic flight (1977), a meticulously accurate reproduction of The Spirit of St. Louis was built in the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) Aviation Foundation’s restoration shop by American aviator and aircraft designer Paul Poberezny of Oshkosh, WI, and embarked on commemorative tours. The EAA reproduction was registered under the original’s N-X-211 number.
In 1977, a Stinson SM-8A Junior was repainted in a black and orange scheme (with Spirit of EAA inscription) and became known as the Chase Plane for the 50th Anniversary Lindbergh Tour. In July and September 1978, the Stinson and the replica of the Spirit of St. Louis visited 25 cities on two Canadian tours. The aircraft were piloted by retired American Airlines pilot Capt. Jim Barton and retired United Airlines Captain Verne Jobst (1929—1992) respectively.
The replica had visited more than 200 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico to keep alive the memory of Lindbergh’s achievement and rekindle America’s interest in its aviation history.
Whatever the future holds for Buttonville Airport is unknown, but it has had a rich past and served the community well so far, therefore the hope is that it can carry on for years to come. Only time will tell for sure. But, for now, it is all operating in good form.
Apex Aviation. (2017). Various images from the Photography Archive. Courtesy of Apex Aviation.
BFC. (2020). Brampton Flight Centre. Brampton Flying Club. Retrieved on April 16, 2020 from, https://www.bramptonflightcentre.com/community/brampton-flying-club/
Leggat Aviation. (2017). Various images from the Leggat Aviation Archives. Courtesy of Leggat Aviation.
McLean, S. (2020). Toronto Buttonville Airport site going up for sale. Real Estate News Exchange (RENX). Retrieved on April 15, 2020 from, https://renx.ca/toronto-buttonville-airport-property-for-sale/
Pangrazzi, A. Personal Communication. 2017
Shehata, M. Personal Communication. April 16, 2020
Wikipedia. (2020). Buttonville Municipal Airport. Wikipedia Foundation Inc. Retrieved on April 15, 2020 from, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buttonville_Municipal_Airport
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies.
He is a business and technology consultant. A recent contract was with Wirepas from Tampere, Finland as the Director of Business Development. Over the past 15 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).
Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).
He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.
He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 15 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.