Today’s Hope Air flight was special for a young pilot: it called for landing at Canada’s busiest airport: CYYZ aka Lester B. Pearson International.

A pair of east-coast ladies needed a ride over to Buffalo, NY, and I needed to be back in the air after such a long time grounded by weather. Another instructor buddy (Charlie Rampulla, who also works at NexJet) was available to help clean out those mental cobwebs. After two hours of early morning aerial exercises, we checked in with YYZ tower, who didn’t expect us but were open-minded. Once confirmed, they worked us into the rather slow Sunday-noon flow of big jet traffic, and in no time at all, we shut down at the Hope Air sponsor Shell Aerocentre. We were made welcome, and sat there in the comfy pilot lounge, ogling out the airside windows.

An hour or two later, the ladies arrived by jet, were shuttled over to our little airplane, and we got under way to Buffalo. Getting under way took some time because Pearson tower wanted us to take off from the farthest possible corner of the airport from our parking spot. So, we had to taxi as far and wait nearly as long as a big jet. Again, the controllers easily worked us into the mix, treating our little 6-seater just as seriously as the 300-passenger airplanes waiting ahead and behind us.

On the way to Buffalo, we had a picture-perfect instrument flight, as indeed our passengers realized as about nothing was visible during the flight. We passed right over Niagara Falls, but sadly no sightseeing was possible because of snow and clouds in the area. After a straightforward landing at Buffalo’s longest runway, we parked at the field’s only general aviation support company and quickly dealt with US customs. Despite not needing to purchase anything there, these fine folks let us freely borrow a “crew car” for a few hours to get something to eat: buffalo wings of course.

Our return trip to Toronto was embittered by Canadian customs. They seem to require a rock-solid two-hour advance notice of arrival. For a half-hour flight like Buffalo-Toronto, this is inconvenient. As the weather was worsening in the wider area, after some negotiation they permitted us to arrive in Toronto early, but instructed us sternly to wait until the original two-hour ETA before clearing customs. Off we went, back up into the post-nightfall dark clouds, and arrived back home at the Island around 6 o’clock. The CANPASS representatives were unrelenting, and forced us to stay in the cold dark little parked airplane for an entire hour before they were willing to talk to us on the phone and let us go. Sigh – no agent even came to visit. I’m sure there is some logic in this process, beyond a brute exercise of authority, I just wish I knew what good was accomplished by making us sit there.

In two weeks, we get to do it all over again.