The sky’s the limit for the little airpark with big ideas

Dec 4, 2023

Even as other small facilities close, Burlington Executive Airport has an eye on future growth.

Nestled at the very top end of the city, a small – but mighty – airfield is alive with activity. In a time when many small municipal facilities are closing, Burlington Executive Airport – Code CZBA – provides a thriving regional facility that supports industry in the area.

A passionate volunteer who’s been involved at the airport since 1990, Tim Crawford said the airport provides vital transportation to the area. With Appleby Line to the west and Bell School Road to the east, Britannia Road to the north and No. 2 SideRoad to the south, it’s an Airport of Entry (AOE) designated for CANPASS private and corporate permit holders. CANPASS is the Canada Border Services Agency program that streamlines customs and immigration clearance for travellers flying on corporate and private aircraft; members can land at an AOE any time the airport is open for landing. There are 47 of these across Canada, 20 in Ontario.

In 2007, Vince Rossi bought the airport founded by Victor and Gwen Kovachik in 1962. Vic’s determination and his dedication to aviation helped him achieve his dream of establishing a flying facility in Burlington. Since the purchase, Rossi’s invested more than $4 million to transform it from a sleepy training facility into what it is today. And, it boasts free parking.

What began as a single grass strip now provides service to corporate and general aviation, Ontario Patient Transfer (transfer flights and emergency organ transfer), ORNGE, Ontario Provincial Police, Canadian military and search and rescue, Transport Canada, disaster evacuation and recovery and courier, to name a few.

Spectrum Airways provides flight training and career college, while DB Air provides custom flights for business or pleasure.

There are hundreds of hangars and room to grow, said Crawford, who is also the airport’s advisor. There are not enough hangars to address current needs; he noted he receives at least one phone call a day from people seeking hangar space. They can’t build them fast enough, and finding labourers has proven challenging. The Airport has an 8,000 sq.-ft. maintenance facility operated by Kovachik Aircraft engineers and mechanics.

Businesses at the airport include Rainbow Sport Aviation, ECI/Elliott & Crawford Insurance, AC Aircraft refinishers, Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, Mercedes Benz Canada, Evertz International, several charter operators and thousands of private aircraft owners visiting the area.

Crawford said Burlington’s airport will continue to grow, while smaller airparks in the province have stopped operating; in many cases this is because the land is invaluable, but it’s also because airparks are expensive to operate. Buttonville, Downsview, Wingham, Owen Sound and Wiarton are examples of sites that have changed hands or closed in recent years. Burlington’s airport sees 70,000 movements per year; at one time, the larger Buttonville airpark would have 90,000 each year.

And while Crawford says Burlington’s airport might not be known by everyone given its spot in rural Burlington, he did mention the controversy that took place several years ago, involving residents and city council, over the airport receiving fill. “Things got loud at one time.”

Nevertheless, the airport ended up spending millions to improve drainage issues. They’ve also increased the main runway’s length and added lighting so landings can occur at night, which is more appealing to larger, corporate aircraft, he said. The former east-west crossing runway that was turf is now paved. Now, the Burlington Executive Airport is the ninth busiest of its kind in Canada, he said.

For the future, including 190 acres on the west side on Appleby Line, there are plans to bring in hydro and add five large hangars As well, 10 new businesses plan on joining the airpark in Burlington.

“It would be most like Pearson (airport), with planes taking off or landing every three to four minutes,” said Crawford, who flies an amphibious plane that can land on solid ground or water. “More than 50 per cent of those movements are training flights from Spectrum.” But, he said, there really is “no typical day; on sunny days it’s quite active.”

Crawford, like many who own their own private planes, said he will fly as far as he can, as often as he can. “Everything I like to do burns gasoline,” he said, laughing. “Sometimes I’ll fly to Orillia, there’s a nice hamburger place, but then it’s a $200 hamburger.”

(Source: Burlington Today, Julie Slack. Photos/CZBA)


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