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The Sky is the Limit

For the week of Monday February 2, 2004

On February 4, 1939, the first plane landed at Toronto Island Airport. This marked the beginning of travel to and from the small airport, which was conveniently located for travellers who could quickly reach downtown Toronto.

Airside elevation of Toronto Island Airport Terminal Building
Airside elevation of Toronto Island Airport Terminal Building
© F. Haigh, 1989

Major developments in aviation occurred after the First World War. Due to the new technology, airplanes were introduced into the mainstream for air passenger travel. The Canadian Government created the Department of Transport in 1936 and Trans Canada Airlines, a publicly owned airline, in 1937. Increased airport construction soon followed.

Originally named Port George VI Airport after King George VI’s visit to Canada in 1939, the public soon began referring to the airport as Toronto Island Airport. Due to Toronto’s position as one of Canada’s most important cities, two airports were established. Toronto Island was the main airport. Malton Airport, which was later renamed Pearson International Airport, was originally the secondary airport because of its rural location.

View of ferry from terminal building
View of ferry from terminal building
© F. Haigh, 1989

Following Department of Transport specifications, airport terminal buildings were designed in a simple modernist style that was well-suited to their functions. These buildings would allow space for monitoring flight activity, processing passengers and luggage, and sorting airmail.

In addition to the regular arrivals and departures of cargo and passenger flights, Toronto Island Airport had some varied functions over the years. During the Second World War, the airport was affectionately named "Little Norway." Members of the Royal Norwegian Air Force, who had escaped their occupied homeland, established a training school at Toronto Island Airport. In 1943, the training school was relocated to larger quarters at Gravenhurst (Muskoka Airport).

After the war, public interest in aviation soared. Like Malton Airport, Toronto Island Airport began to offer training courses to amateur pilots. People from all walks of life had the opportunity to learn how to fly airplanes. The excitement surrounding flying encouraged the general public to see aviation as a viable travel option.

Today, the Toronto Island Airport is officially known as Toronto City Centre Airport. Until it ceased its original functions in 1991, the Terminal Building was the oldest terminal building in regular operation. Now it is used as airport office space. Designated as a national historic site, the Toronto Island Airport Terminal Building is commemorated by a plaque in front of the Terminal Building.

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