National Airlines shows off one of its Boeing aircraft at the Windsor International Airport, October 1, 2015. (Photo by Mike Vlasveld)

Growth In Air Traffic Opens New Opportunities In Windsor

Windsor’s airport could carve out a new niche as a place to train pilots if Pearson International Airport in Toronto becomes North America’s newest mega-hub.

Officials at Pearson are considering getting out of some part of the business, in particular, cargo, corporate jets, aircraft repair and pilot training. Traffic is expected to continue to increase, maybe double over the next three decades and Pearson is running out of capacity. It wants to focus on larger passenger aircraft.

Right now, Pearson has connectivity with 65% of destinations globally and would like to increase that to 80%. That means more flights at an airport that is already approaching or at capacity.

“They’re running out of slots, which are landing times for airplanes,” says Jim McCormack, director of finance at the Windsor International Airport. “They already have times of the day where they’re maxing out on their runways.”

The cargo destined for Toronto and the corporate jet business is likely to go to airports like Billy Bishop or Hamilton’s airport. Windsor International Airport is interested in picking up pilot training and expanding its cargo and aircraft repair businesses.

“The cargo one is of interest to us because we’re trying to expand in cargo,” says McCormack. “The ones that are most likely are the ones like pilot training, and we’re really interested in having maintenance repair and overhaul because we already have Premier Aviation.”

Windsor could also pick up more air traffic from the U.S.

“As Toronto becomes a mega-hub and starts going into locations that DTW [Detroit Metropolitan Airport] doesn’t have flights going to, there’s a lot more reason for people from Detroit and surrounding area to come through Windsor, and then Pearson and fly international,” says McCormack estimating there are about 6.5-million people living within 90 minutes of Windsor, many of whom already are because of Canada’s low dollar.

Traffic is expected to double over the next 27 years, so in addition to Pearson’s new status, 11 airports across Southern Ontario have formed a network to maintain and grow service.

Windsor’s airport is already seeing a significant jump in passenger traffic with 331,000 passengers in 2016. That is a 21% increase over 2015. McCormack says there is no reason why it wouldn’t continue to grow either.

Whether Windsor’s new focus will mean major capital projects is still unknown. McCormack says that will discussion will evolve if the local airport reaches capacity. He says Windsor has the runway space to land a 747.

The other airports included in the Southern Ontario Airport Network are London, Hamilton, Waterloo, Lake Simcoe, Oshawa, Kingston, Niagara, Peterborough, and Billy Bishop Airport.