Toronto Island Airport Trip

On Saturday, 28 March 1999, Lenny Hyman, Jon Saulsgiver and I took a trip to Toronto in N9105X. We flew to the airport officially known as "Toronto City Centre", but unofficially as "The Island Airport". I was there as official tour guide and teacher of the intricacies of CANPASS and US Customs service. Here are some of my pictures. You can see bigger versions of them all by clicking on them.

[beautiful morning] It was a beautiful morning, clear and calm. The sort of day that makes you glad to be a pilot.
Jon flew the first leg. I sat in the right seat and played with my GPS and camera, and bothered Jon by retuning the radios to "help" him. Jon and Lenny are IFR pilots, so they had to use airway routings instead of my usual "ROC to smoke stacks to Toronto" VFR type routing. We flew across the lake, in spite of sumping out some bad gas before we left. [Jon flying]
[Niagara Falls] The visibility was incredible, although the picture doesn't do it justice. Niagara Falls was visible on the left, and Toronto to the right as we turned out over the lake. I suggested that we call "airport in sight" before Rochester handed us off to Buffalo, but Jon didn't go for that. Speaking of which, we didn't get a proper hand-off all day - both there and back it was "Radar services terminated, squawk VFR, you might want to call so-and-so for further advisories". On the way back, Rochester was giving everybody weird squawk codes (like 0400) and asking us continually for altitude reports. I think the secondary radar must have been working (because they asked people to ident), but the data blocks weren't showing up.
Lenny sat in the back and took pictures. He borrowed my camera for this picture, soon after we'd started our descent. Lenny wanted us to pose better, but Jon had to get back to flying the plane. [Lenny's View]
[Toronto] We're number two to land behind a Air Ontario Dash8. Actually, I can't see the traffic in this picture, but it was there. Great view of the city, eh? You can see the airport just below the reflection of the CO detector in the windshield. Look at that glare shield! Yuck.
On final, the view is incredible. Toronto has grown up a lot since I used to live there. [Downtown]
[On Final] What a pretty airport! Land and Hold Short (of the lake) Operations were in effect. There was a lot of traffic in the pattern on this lovely day. At one point we counted 4 on the pattern, and two planes doing scenic tours above or near the airport. Oh, and the homebuilt amphibian that couldn't seem to get on the step.
Come on, admit it! Don't you get a little thrill knowing that the big guys have to wait for you once in a while? Almost makes up for all those times they vector you all over the place while they try and land every commercial airliner in the country ahead of you. [Dash 7]
[World's Shortest Ferry Ride] In order to get off the island, we took world's shortest ferry ride. Literally - I'm pretty sure this used to be in the Guiness Book of World Records as the shortest scheduled ferry ride in the world. $4 to cross a distance about three times as long as the boat - it was tempting to swim it. According to the airport's web page, the ferry ride is 400 feet long. That's a cent per foot!

We walked around until we found a restaurant for lunch. It was sort of a cafeteria style, but the food was decent. It also had a good view of the lake and the roller bladers. We came to the conclusion on this trip that all Canadians, especially the cute women, have been fitted with wheels. Funny, I only got a hockey stick as my Canadian birthright. Sorry, no pictures of lunch. Jon may or may not have bought some cigars at this point.
[CN Tower] After lunch, we somehow managed to find the CN Tower. Amazing how we managed to find it, it being so inconspicuous and all.
Up close, it looks pretty tall. I wonder how that works? We decided to spend the big bucks and go up the big tower. The main observation level puts you about at traffic pattern altitude for the island airport, and being typical pilots we picked out Downsview and Pearson airports, then went around the other side and watched the landings at the Island for a while. [Tower close up]
[Through my feet] The most disturbing part of being in the tower is the portion with a glass floor. A few hours previously, we'd been quite comfortable looking down from an airplane at 8500 feet AGL, and here we are feeling uncomfortable looking down 1000 or so feet. It took a major effort of will to step out off the metal supports and stand right on bare glass like this. Lenny and Jon declined to join me. I had intended to jump up and down to freak people out, but I couldn't force myself to do it. I guess there's no parachute jumping or Breezy flights in my future.

At this point I was getting worried about the amount of memory on my digital camera, so I have no more pictures here. We went up to the "Skypod" on the tower, which is another few hundred feet up above the main observation deck. I wouldn't recommend it - it's another $4, and it's almost exactly the same view as the main level. And the elevator up there is incredibly claustrophobic. When you leave the tower, they make sure that the elevator down drops you off in the middle of this confusing maze of souvenir shops and food shops. Very crafty, and since both Lenny and I were feeling the guilt of not bringing the wives along, we broke down and bought. Jon was smart enough to ship his wife off to Paris or something, so he didn't have anything to feel guilty about.

We staggered back to the airport (I was getting tired enough to consider calling a cab, but we didn't), took the ferry back, and got ready to fly home. It was nearly dark, and I was flying, so I didn't use the last few pictures in my camera. We had the same problems with no hand-offs, and we got penalty vectors all over Rochester until I thought the approach controller was going to hand us off to Syracuse. The customs guy was nice, but it was only a coincidence that he was here, because they didn't even phone him to tell we were coming until we were sitting there with him filling out the paperwork.

All in all, it was a great day, and I won't hesitate again to take a spur of the moment trip like this. Lenny and Jon have done some fun ones in the past, and have got me thinking about Oshkosh, Ben and Jerry's, Nantucket, Block Island, Martha's Vineyard, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, etc etc etc. The world is your oyster when you've got 100 knots of "get there" in the ultimate off-road vehicle.

Lenny just sent me some pictures he took. He used a film camera and scanned them, rather than the digital camera I used. I think his look better.

[Skyline] Lenny's picture of the skyline as we came in. Compare and contrast with my picture, above. Maybe it's because mine was digital, maybe it's because he had better control over exposure, maybe he tweaked it on the scanner, maybe his window was cleaner, but his just looks sharper and brighter to me.

[Two Dudes] Here is Jon and I looking suave and sophisticated as always with the CN Tower in the background. We had to do something to waste time, since we'd miscommunicated about when we were leaving, so I'd told CANPASS the wrong arrival time. When we'd called FSS in the air to correct it, they'd said "oh, that doesn't make any difference". CANPASS said when we'd got on the ground "sure, it doesn't make any difference to them." Bottom line? We had to wait until our original ETA before the customs inspector arrived.

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