After a lot of agonizing, I’ve decided to move my Warrior from Ottawa/Macdonald-Cartier (CYOW) eight nautical miles northeast to Ottawa/Rockcliffe (CYRO) effective 1 October. The short flight means a huge number of changes for me: I’ll be leaving Canada’s 6th busiest airport, where you have to tune in three different frequencies (ATIS, Clearance delivery, and ground) before you even start taxiing, and moving to an uncontrolled airport in the middle of parkland by the Ottawa River. Here’s a shot of part of the flight line, taken from the clubhouse porch:
I’ve flown into, maybe, 30 or 40 different airports, from tiny grass strips to huge international airports much busier than CYOW, but coming home from a long trip I’ve always know that there was a lot of support waiting for me, including two ILS approaches, several FBOs, heated hangars for deicing, emergency equipment, all types of servicing, washrooms available 24/7 for desperate passengers, etc. Now, I’m going to be arriving at an airport with no instrument approach, one tiny maintenance shop on the field, and a barbeque that never seems to stop churning out hamburgers (little use to a vegetarian like me, sadly). It’s going to be a big adjustment. One nice feature is the Canada Aviation Museum on the south side of the field, across the runway from the tie-downs:
I’ve never kept my plane anywhere but the big airport. I did my primary flight training, night rating, and instrument rating there, and when I bought my Warrior, the broker flew it in from Toronto and we did the preflight there. I have no regrets about training at a busy airport — I know too many pilots who are terrified of ATC and busy airspace, but I’ve flown around Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia (as well as many smaller airports) with no problem at all, because I was used to the radio work right from the start. When I was first asking about flying lessons, flight schools at small airports gave me a lot of BS about higher training costs or long delays at towered airports, but they didn’t turn out to be a problem, and I feel like I would have had only a partial education learning to fly somewhere like Rockcliffe.
Now, though, the expense is catching up with me. I have a very good deal on a tie-down spot with plug-in at the big airport, but when I add up landing fees and other costs, I calculated that it’s costing me about $1,000/year more to park at Macdonald-Cartier than it will at Rockcliffe (they’re the same distance from my house), even when I factor in two diversions/year for weather and the resulting cab fares and parking expenses. Next year, when Nav Canada brings in their new user fees for large airports, I calculate that the price difference will jump to $1,500/year. I won’t speculate about how hard a commercial pilot like Aviatrix or Sulako has to work to make that much, but it’s a lot for me, too, especially with two daughters hitting university in the next decade.
Here’s my new tie-down spot. It doesn’t look like much, but presumably, there are tie-downs and some paving stones under all that grass and weed:
It’s not just a matter of money — I’m hoping that a new airport will give me a new start with flying, maybe bringing me closer to other pilots and to my plane itself. Rockcliffe seems like a much more pleasant place to spend a sunny afternoon waxing the plane or BSing with other pilots in the clubhouse (or mowing my parking spot), even if I can’t eat the burgers.