Pearson International Airport, Toronto

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In the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, along the western 401 highway, sits Canada’s largest and busiest airport, Pearson International. Often called simply Pearson, or by its airport code “YYZ”, this airport is an aviation hub of North America between Chicago and New York.

Pearson is the the 4th busiest airport in North America and the 18th busiest in the world. In 2013 the airport handled more than 34 million passengers and more than 500,000 flights! Pearson is also the center for FedEx operations in Canada, is a hub for all Star Alliance flights to Canada and is the headquarters of Canada’s flagship carrier, Air Canada. As an international airport, Pearson has a fully-functioning customs, immigration and inspection system in place.

Pearson’s economic contribution to the region cannot be underscored. More than 108,000 people are directly employed by the airport while a further 80,000 people have jobs in the community as a result of the airport. This activity generates several billion dollars a year, making Pearson one of the most vital economic engines of growth in southern Ontario.

Pearson grew from fairly humble beginnings. In 1935 the federal government approached several farmsteads to the west of Toronto and offered to purchase their land to build a municipal airport. The farmers agreed and construction on the new Malton Airport began in 1937. A single terminal and runway were built, and it was used mainly for privately-owned aircraft and flying clubs. The airport had become popular and several passenger airlines were requesting permission to operate from this small airfield. In 1939 construction on a second, larger terminal began, but passenger traffic was suspended with the outbreak of the Second World War that same year.

Malton Airport became part of the Commonwealth Air Training Program and the airport was aggressively expanded under the wartime demands. Multiple hangars and runways were built, solid buildings were constructed, radar and advanced radio communications towers and underground passageways were all constructed. By 1942 Malton Airport had already become one of the biggest airports in Canada, albeit for military reasons. Over the course of the war 104,000 men and women were trained for various air force-related roles at Malton Airport. These people came from all over the Commonwealth and also the United States.

Malton Airport's single terminal in 1938.

Malton Airport’s single terminal in 1938.

The Commonwealth Air Training Plan ushered in the rapid expansion of Malton Airport during the Second World War.

The Commonwealth Air Training Plan ushered in the rapid expansion of Malton Airport during the Second World War.

After the war Malton Airport reverted back to civilian use, although much larger than it had been before the war. To accomodate the increased demand for passenger flights to the US, Ā a third terminal that included passenger pre-clearance was built, and larger and more robust runways that could handle the new jet aircraft were constructed (one of these 1949 runways is now a taxiway). During the 1950’s, as commercial aviation boomed and jet technology grew, so did Malton. In fact, in the late 1950’s the Avro Arrow was test-flown from the airport!

By 1960 more than 2 million passengers a year were travelling through Malton Airport, and the existing structures could not keep up with demand. In 1963Ā the airport re-organized and constructed a new international terminal with US pre-clearance, which is today’s Terminal 1. In February of 1964 Prime Minister Lester Pearson officially opened the new terminal with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The airport also had a name change. It was no longer called Malton Airport but would from now-on be called Toronto International Airport.

The new terminal 1 was considered state of the art in the 1960’s, but growth in the “Golden Horseshoe” area of Toronto was exceeding the terminal’s abilities to handle passengers by 1970, and a new terminal, Terminal 2, was opened in 1973. All international travel was routed through Terminal 2, while domestic flights would come and go from Terminal 1.

Terminal 1 in 1973

Terminal 1 in 1973

In 1984, in honor of the Prime-Minister who had opened the newly re-designed Toronto International Airport, the airport was given the name “Pearson International Airport”. With the new international airport lettering system, it was also given the call letters “YYZ” that same year.

As Toronto boomed, the airport continued to outgrow it’s facilities, so that in 1991 construction on a third “super terminal” began. Terminal 3 was built as both an international and domestic terminal to handle overflow from the other two terminals. WestJet, Air Transat, Sky Team and One World all use Terminal 3. In 1996 the federal agency in charge of airports relinquished responsibility and created privately-run “airport authorities” to manage the nation’s airports. The Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) was officially created with both public and private stakeholders to operate and manage the airport. In 2004 the GTAA invested a further $200 million into YYZ, creating state-of-the-art systems andĀ severalĀ large shopping and dining area.

With the continual expansion of this international airport came the constant need for parking and amenities. No less than 6 large parking garages and 5Ā large hotels are attached to the airport, while several privately-owned garages dot the area around the airport. In 2006 the GTAA built the fully-automated LINK Train, a light-passenger monorail to connect all the terminals, hotels and parking garages.

Today, Pearson continues to be an economic driver in the region and one of the largest airports in North America. The airport has several more expansions planned over the next decade, and construction on a new subway line that would link the airport and the city of Mississauga to the Toronto subway system has already begun.

Aerial view of Pearson.

Aerial view of Pearson.

Terminals 1 and 3 are modern and state-of-the-art.

Terminals 1 and 3 are modern and state-of-the-art.

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Pearson hosts a wide variety of restaurants, bars, cafes and fast-food joints for all tastes.

Pearson hosts a wide variety of restaurants, bars, cafes and fast-food joints for all tastes.

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The Pearson Airport Terminal 3 Swiss Chalet restaurant.

The Pearson Airport Terminal 3 Swiss Chalet restaurant.

Terminal 1 is bright and colorful!

Terminal 1 is bright and colorful!

Terminal 1's full-size aquarium.

Terminal 1’s full-size aquarium.

Random artifacts from the Royal Ontario Museum are found throughout the airport.

Random artifacts from the Royal Ontario Museum are found throughout the airport.

Arrivals include the standard luggage carousels, customs and immigration inspections.

Arrivals include the standard luggage carousels, customs and immigration inspections.

CBSA (Canada Border Security Agency) keeps staff at 2 terminals for passport control, immigration control and customs inspections.

CBSA (Canada Border Security Agency) keeps staff at 2 terminals for passport control, immigration control and customs inspections.

More than 4,000 CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Safety Authority) screening officers keep the travelling public safe at Pearson.

More than 4,000 CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Safety Authority) screening officers keep the travelling public safe at Pearson.

Two tall control towers keep the traffic coming and going in an orderly fashion. There has never been a fatal aviation accident at this airport in 80 years of operation.

Two tall control towers keep the traffic coming and going in an orderly fashion. There has never been a fatal aviation accident at this airport in 80 years of operation.

NavCan personnel operate Pearson Air Traffic Control.

NavCan personnel operateĀ the Control Tower.

Pearson Air Traffic Control is a large underground room where all flights are sorted, organized and controlled in and out of Pearson.

Pearson Air Traffic Control is a large underground room where all flights are sorted, organized and controlled in and out of Pearson.

The newest hotel to join Pearson, Alt Hotel.

The newest hotel to join Pearson, Alt Hotel.

The LINK Train keeps passengers moving between terminals, hotels and parking garages.

The LINK Train keeps passengers moving between terminals, hotels and parking garages.

LINK rails and a parking garage.

LINK rails and a parking garage.

TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) city buses service the airport.

TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) city buses service the airport.

Several privately-owned companies also provide service to and from the airport. The biggest of these is the Airport Express bus.

Several privately-owned companies also provide service to and from the airport. The biggest of these is the Airport Express bus.

YYZ is a Star Alliance hub.

YYZ is a Star Alliance hub.

More than 140 different airlines fly in and out of YYZ.

More than 140 different airlines fly in and out of YYZ.

Pearson is Air Canada's home airport.

Pearson is Air Canada’s home airport.

Pearson is also a WestJet hub.

Pearson is also a WestJet hub.

Airside crews at Pearson have winter de-icing down to a fine science, that takes only a few minutes as a plane taxis to the runway.

Airside crews at Pearson have winter de-icing down to a fine science, that takes only a few minutes as a plane taxis to the runway.

While Pearson has had a few close calls and several minor accidents, the worst accident was when Air France flight 358 overshot the runway and crashed near the 401 in 2005. 12 people were injured but there were no fatalities.

While Pearson has had a few close calls and several minor accidents, the worst accident was when Air France flight 358 overshot the runway and crashed near the 401 in 2005. 12 people were injured but there were no fatalities.

Departures are modern and as efficient as possible at Pearson.

Departures are modern and as efficient as possible at Pearson.

One plane lands every 3 minutes at Pearson, 24 hours a day!

One plane lands every 3 minutes at Pearson, 24 hours a day!

cgjwi

 

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