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Friday,  May 24, 2024 2:55 AM 

Billy Bishop airport celebrates 85 years in 2024

  • Air
  •   02-05-2024  7:21 am
  •   Pax Global Media

Billy Bishop airport celebrates 85 years in 2024
Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ), located on the Toronto islands, celebrates 85 years in 2024. (File photo)
Pax Global Media

Downtown Toronto's convenient airport, Billy Bishop (YTZ), is celebrating 85 years of flight in 2024, says PortsToronto, owner and operator of the facility. 

Conceived in the 1930s as the main airport for Toronto, the construction of what is now Billy Bishop airport, located on the Toronto Islands, was completed in 1939 by the Toronto Harbour Commission (THC), a predecessor of PortsToronto. 

At the same time, the THC built Malton Airport (now Toronto Pearson International Airport) as a secondary, alternate airport to be used in the event of weather.

On February 4, 1939, H.F. McLean of Montreal landed a Stinson SR-9F Reliant aircraft at Toronto's new airport, marking the beginning of 85 years of flight at Billy Bishop. 

That same year, on Sept. 8, Billy Bishop welcomed its first commercial passenger flight, as a charter flight carrying famed trumpet player and conductor Tommy Dorsey and his swing-band arrived in Toronto for a two-day engagement at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE).

These milestone anniversaries will bookend a celebration at Billy Bishop, commemorating the airport's past, present and future.

"Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport has a long and storied history operating on Toronto's waterfront. Welcoming its first flight in 1939, the airport soon became an integral component of the war effort serving as a base for allied pilot training. In the years since, the airport has established itself as a valuable asset for the City of Toronto, Ontario and Canada, providing a transportation gateway for residents and visitors alike, enabling trade and tourism, driving economic impact, facilitating healthcare and creating jobs," said RJ Steenstra, president and CEO of PortsToronto, in a statement. 

"We look forward to many more years of providing award-winning service that keeps people moving, supports the economy and makes connections between Toronto and the world."

View a video showcasing the airport's journey, or visit for a calendar of upcoming activities and to view a timeline of the airport's history featuring archival photos from the PortsToronto collection dating back to the 1920s and 1930s. 

Fast facts

  • In its early years, from 1939 to 1943, Billy Bishop served as a training ground for both the Royal Canadian and Royal Norwegian Air Forces, with neighbouring Little Norway Park named in honour of the Norwegian community that settled around the airport in 1940.

  • Billy Bishop maintains critical connections to medical care for Ontarians, providing a base for Ornge medevac services and medical transportation charities such as Hope Air to quickly and easily access Toronto's hospital system.

  • Billy Bishop  is an important international gateway and a key driver to Toronto's economy, generating more than $2.1 billion in total economic output and supporting 4,450 jobs.