Moving to a new airport

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:

Flight line at CYRO

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:

Canada Aviation Museum

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:

New tie-down spot.

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.

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8 Responses to Moving to a new airport

  1. Frank Ch. Eigler says:

    Good point regarding the barbecue. The times we visited CYRO in the plane,
    the barbecue was casting this wonderful smell over the place. We have not
    taken sufficient advantage.

    Tell ya what. Next time we come by, let’s meet, and for every meaty burger
    you don’t eat, I’ll eat three (a la maddox :-).

    The biggest change you may notice is winter operations. Probably less
    snow shoveling and perhaps no deicing capabilities at all at CYRO. But,
    damn, what a beautiful approach & departure.

  2. david says:

    Frank: I was curious about that, so last winter I drove to Rockcliffe the morning after the biggest snowfall. By mid-morning, the volunteers had already cleared the runway and the main taxiways down to pavement, and they were just finishing up plowing right up to the spinners on all the rows of parked airplanes. Of course, that could be due to a couple of enthusiastic volunteers who won’t be there next winter, so it’s dangerous to count on it.

    CYOW has great snow removal for the south field, where you usually stop, but they don’t bother with the north until everything’s clear where the big jets play — it’s a lot less work just to NOTAM 04/22 closed (an by association, the taxiways around it). I think it was a day or two before I had a clear path to get my plane out.

    Let me know the next time you’re coming to Rockcliffe, and you’re welcome to my burgers. I might bring you out some real bagels as well.

  3. Aviatrix says:

    I hope the move goes well.

    I don’t know what your old tiedown was like, but tied down on grass you get a lot of humidity. It’s worth your while to put down a sheet of plywood or corrugated tin to kind of insulate your airplane from the moisture of the ground. And make sure you have plugs to keep the birds out. I once found birds nesting inside the horizontal stab of a C172 tied down on grass. They had managed to get in through the reinforcing holes in the back of the stab, by the elevator hinge. Whole stab was crammed full of sticks. Messy.

    What’s your opnion on Yves Veggie Cuisine? If you can handle your veggie food sharing a grill with the beef there are some quite barbequeable and tasty vegetarian burgers, so you can join in the fun.

  4. david says:

    Thanks for the comment, Aviatrix. I do have plugs for the front of the cowling and a bra for the back of the empennage, but I’d forgotten about the humidity problem over grass (though my plane has spent too much time over puddles of standing water on pavement the last couple of years). Where would you suggesting putting the plywood — under the fuselage, or under the wings? It would be easiest to fill the spot with gravel, but then I’d have the problem with stones thrown up by the prop.

  5. Niss Feiner says:


    Hope the move goes well for you. I would like to hear more from the rest of the people here about the plywood aswell. C-FUBC is parked on grass and I was curious as to what kind of issues can arrise from the humidity. I was also concidering putting down patio stones…and pros or cons you know of?


  6. Chris Hobbs (C-FPTN) says:

    As far as the two ILSs at CYOW are concerned, of course CYRO has no instrument approaches. When I come home to CYRO and things are low I find I can normally get in without too much problem by shooting the VOR/DME to RWY 09 at Gatineau and then, when out of the cloud, cancelling IFR and shuttling across the river. Not as good as an ILS but it normally works unless the weather is really down the tubes.

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