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Center of excellence

Business Airport International explores how the new multimillion-dollar Aerospace Centre will transform business aviation in Toronto


Demand for business aviation continues to grow across North America, with maintenance support and financial services provider JSSI’s Q3 2015 Business Aviation Index, released in November 2015, showing that flight hours in the region increased by 2.3% compared to the previous quarter. In Canada, the industry is worth C$5.4bn (US$4.1bn) to the economy and accounts for 23,500 jobs, according to the Canadian Business Aviation Association’s 2015 Annual Report. 

At Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, the outlook for business aviation is positive and a C$150m (US$114m) FBO development is being built to cope with increasing passenger numbers. “The indications of future growth are quite clear: there is already more demand for occupancy than there is space available,” said Ryan Mikolasik, spokesperson for Epic Fuels, which will operate the FBO at the new Aerospace Centre with UVair.

Comprising approximately 250,000ft² of hangar- and FBO-related office and shop facilities, tenants at the Aerospace Centre will include management companies and independent corporate flight departments. Facilities will comprise meeting, office, recreational, rest and working space, as well as an upper-level food and beverage space, and an event area with a viewing deck of the runways.

Designed and financed by Aligned Aviation Developments Inc, a joint venture between EllisDon and the owners of the new facility, in partnership with Toronto-based architect IBI Group and Paktau Architects from Vancouver, the Aerospace Centre aims to “completely reset corporate service standards through thoughtful operating analysis and good design”, according to a company spokesperson from Aligned Aviation. Unique to this project, EllisDon, a major Canadian construction company and builder of the new facility, has also been involved from the conceptual design phase. 

Chris Andrews, senior vice president of EllisDon, said, “The design process took more than two years and was highly collaborative between us and the owner at a conceptual and technical level, to create an aviation campus that can meet the demands of a business driven by efficient, on-time performance and a high level of design sophistication.

“We believe we have achieved this, while creating a spectacular addition to the Toronto Pearson Airport building infrastructure. Through this project, we have also pioneered a unique project delivery process that addresses the needs of a highly technical industry,” he added.

The project will be completed in three phases. “The first phase includes the FBO and hangars that will reach full operational capacity in 18 months. We anticipate 50-60 hangared aircraft will define ‘full’, depending on the mix of types and the utilization patterns. The ramp space will readily accommodate a similar number,” explained a spokesperson for Aligned Aviation. “Phases 2 and 3 incorporate twin office towers and atrium space, which combines meeting/convention facilities, industrial display areas, food and beverage, retail and club space.” IBI Group Architects will be leading Phase 1 of the project, while Paktau Architects will take over for Phases 2 and 3.


Right: The facility will
be built in three phases and will open from early 2016



Design inspiration
The Aerospace Centre design takes its inspiration from a global survey of business aircraft facilities to identify the requirements of customers and combine them to provide a world-class facility. Aligned Aviation also worked closely with operators, customers, service providers, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) and NAV Canada to identify the best site development opportunities at the airport. “The location of the Aerospace Centre will greatly improve the convenience of business aviation for its customers, both based and transient,” explained Mikolasik.

Aligned Aviation’s spokesperson continued, “Ramp, terminal areas and hangar layouts have been carefully evolved over a two-year analysis to ensure ease of access and departure. The new facility is also significantly closer to Toronto’s downtown core than any Toronto alternative, as well as being close to the adjacent runway. With a south-side location and business traffic predominantly arriving from or departing to points in the south, the new center opens up traffic routing and management efficiencies for operators, as well as the airport itself.”

Location and facilities
Aligned Aviation has developed a ‘25-5-5 experience’ for the new facility at Toronto Pearson – it takes 25 minutes to drive to the FBO from most of the greater Toronto area, five minutes to board the airplane, and five minutes to taxi to the runway. “This represents a game-change in terms of ease of access for operators and their customers. So too does the proximity of the runway closest to the FBO; taxi delays promise to be a fraction of what is the rule today,” explained the company’s spokesperson.

Security at the Aerospace Centre is paramount and full security systems have been engineered into the structure, which includes hardened computer systems, biometrics, safety systems, HD CCTV infrastructure, and TEMPEST (a National Communications Security Committee directive) secure meeting areas.

The lounge areas incorporate crew rest areas, privacy spaces, open departure areas, a restaurant with deck, gym and other amenities. A second Protocol Lounge provides a higher level of security for special occasions such as state visits.


Left: The Aerospace Centre is easily accessible from the greater Toronto area


Challenges faced
As with any large-scale project, there have been a number of challenges associated with the planning and design of the Aerospace Centre. According to Aligned Aviation, securing an appropriate site with enough space took a great deal of professional effort by the airport authority and Aligned Aviation, and the agreement with the GTAA was only reached after a careful vetting by airport staff and a series of planning adjustments.

“We overcame these challenges by assessing other greenfield sites and extracting lessons from local experts, which was extremely useful,” explained the company spokesperson. “Mistakes can be costly unless fundamental considerations such as ramp planning and time-flow issues are resolved. Attractive building design, while important, is the least necessary component to ensure an effective operating capability. It is all about time and motion – the logistics are key. An enormous effort was invested to ensure that the client’s operational needs were fully understood and remained paramount throughout the site and building design process.”

Future progress
According to Aligned Aviation, Toronto Pearson International Airport’s business aircraft facilities included aging building stock and some facilities were consigned to the furthest reaches of the airport, which cuts into the convenience afforded by business aviation. “The Aerospace Centre buildings are new, tailored to business aviation requirements, and positioned to be easiest to reach from anywhere in the Greater Metropolitan Region,” said the spokesperson. “The site has expansion potential, which will be the subject of ongoing discussion with the GTAA in future.”

The Aerospace Centre will open in stages from 2016, with full operation expected in early 2017, and it will facilitate the changing business aviation needs in the Greater Toronto area. “Historically, Toronto Pearson International Airport has been well-served by a small number of FBO chains,” commented Aligned Aviation’s spokesperson. “The Aerospace Centre’s prime location now justifies the large capital commitments involved in a first-class global-scale FBO facility that better reflects the operating standards of Canada’s largest and busiest international airport.”

January 4, 2016



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