If you were to rank the busiest airports in Canada, where would you place Waterloo International Airport?
In normal times, it would be well down the list one would imagine, but last November it was the busiest in the country, according to Statistics Canada.
The agency says a total of 13,619 take-offs and landings occurred at the airport in November 2020.
This put it well ahead of what would likely be the country’s busiest airport in normal times, Lester B. Pearson International in Mississauga.
That airport actually finished in seventh place with just 9,470 take-offs and landings, a far cry from the 34,710 which took place a year earlier.
Coming in behind Waterloo on the list of busiest airports in Canada were two B.C. Airports, Boundary Bay and Abbostford, which had 12,773 and 12,307 take-offs and landings, respectively. Both airports are a little down from where they were a year earlier.
Chris Wood, the airport’s general manager, says the airport’s primary source of traffic is for training, which has largely gone unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since May, I think we’ve been top three every month,” Wood told Global News on Friday. “We have the Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre, and it’s one of the busiest flight training schools in Canada and we also have Great Lakes helicopters, which is which is really growing and busy as well.”
He estimates the two schools account for 90 per cent of the flights landing and lifting off from the airport.
Obviously, COVID-19 has played a factor in dropping the number of flights down at other airports such as Pearson but Waterloo’s actually grew year over year, as there were only 9,366 a year earlier.
“I would say we had better weather this November than we did probably the last two Novembers,” Wood explained, noting that since many of the liftoffs and landings are for training purposes, they need great weather for the practice sessions.
“We have no international traffic on a commercial basis at all so these are all students learning how to fly,” he said. “They’re basically practising landing and taking off.
“And that’s why there’s so many movements on the runway, because they just basically fly around the airport learning how to land and take off.”
When Statscan releases its December numbers, don’t expect the Waterloo airport to remain atop the list.
“I think we had a pretty crappy December (in terms of weather), if I remember,” he noted. “So the December numbers will probably be way down.”