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Canada’s Hub & The Spotter’s Haven: Lester B. Pearson International Airport

// ]]> Lester B. Pearson International Airport (CYYZ), located in Toronto, Ontario is not only Canada's largest and busiest airport; it is also one of the best for aircraft spotting. The hub is home to several domestic and international carriers with flights from all over the world. With over 400,000 aircraft movements and 30 million passengers per year, no other airport in Canada even comes close to Pearson. Air Canada has its largest hub at Toronto, serving destinations ranging from Canada to China, and everywhere in between. Air Canada is a member of the Star Alliance, which has attracted many partner airlines to the airport. The airline also serves as a hub for Air Canada Express (Including Jazz Air and Air Georgian), West Jet, CanJet, Sunwing, and Air Transat. Over 70 airlines in total operate out of CYYZ, including the major European carriers such as British Airways, Air France, KLM, and Lufthansa. The Terminals Airline operate out of 2 large terminals at Pearson. Oddly enough, they are Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. Terminal 2 was demolished to make room for additional gates in the newly constructed Terminal 1, built in 2004. Terminal 1 is home to all of the Star Alliance Carriers, including Air Canada, as well as Emirates Airline's Airbus a380 Super-Jumbo. Terminal 3 handles mostly all international flights operated by airlines other than Air Canada, as well as all West Jet flights.

Spotting Toronto's unique lineup makes it one of the best airports for spotting and aviation photography. Spotters are rarely harrassed by security or airport officials and you will always find several other people also enjoying the hobby. The best time of day for spotting is definitely the late afternoon when the European Flag Carrier heavies come in. Throughout the day, several heavies come in from literally all corners of the world. The most interesting arrivals are definitely Emirate's a380's and Cubana's Tupolev Tu-204's. What to look for: - Air France 777's & a380's (from Paris) - Air Transat a300's, a310's, & a330's - Alitalia 767's (from Rome) - KLM a330's & 747's (from Amsterdam-Schipol) - Austrian 767's (from Vienna) - British Airways 747's, 767's, & 777's (from Heathrow) - Cathay Pacific 777's (from Hong Kong) - Lufthansa a340's (from Frankfurt) - Cubana Tupolev Tu-204's! (from various destinations in Cuba) - El/Al 767's (from Tel Aviv) - Emirates a380's (from Dubai) - Etihad 777's (from Abu Dhabi) - Eva Air 777's (from Taipei) - Finnair 757's (from Helsinki) - Hainan a340's (from Beijing) - Jet Airways a330's (From Delhi with a stop in Brussels) - Korean 777's (from Seoul-Incheon) - LOT 767's (from Warsaw) - Pakistan 777's (from Islamabad, Karachi, & Lahore) - SATA a310's (from Lisbon, Porto, & Ponta Delgada) - Transaero 777's (from Moscow) - Turkish 777's (from Istanbul) Here are the best locations for spotting at Toronto-Pearson, as well as examples of photo's that can be taken from these locations. There are a few other locations out there, but I have had the best luck with these and highly recommend them. See the map at the bottom of the page for details. Location 1: FedEx Hill This location is on the site of the hill that used to be near CYYZ's FedEx hub. Even though the hill isn't there any longer, you can still get great views of aircraft landing on Runway 05 and departing 23. There are usually several people here and most have never had a problem. You must park on the right hand side of the road. Getting good shots can be a little difficult because it is completely fenced, but with some good luck and timing you should be able to get some nice photos.

FedEx Hill offers great view of the Toronto FedEx Hub (Go Figure). Photo by Kyle Dunst

WestJet Boeing 737 Departing 23. (Photo by Kyle Dunst)

Air Canada Embraer 170 departing 23 (Photo by Kyle Dunst)

Location 2: "The Strip Club" / Aviation World This location is located off of Carlingview Drive, on the Airport's Northeast side. This is the parking lot for the Aviation World Shop (which I highly recommend checking out) and the "Landing Strip" Strip Club. This location is a little less known but provides amazing views of aircraft arriving to 24L and 24R.  I didn't have any trouble with security when I was here, and I was the only person around.

Air Transat a300 as seen from the "Strip Club" (Photo by Kyle Dunst)

Alitalia 767 on approach to 24R after a long flight from Rome (Photo by Kyle Dunst)

Etihad Boeing 777 arriving from Abu Dhabi (Photo by Kyle Dunst)

Location 3: Wendy's / Petro Canada This is by far the most popular and best location to spot at Toronto. If aircraft are landing on Runway 23, GO HERE!!!!, it does not get any better than this. Aircraft pass right over your head at just about 100 feet off the ground. There are always several groups of spotters here so you will blend right in. This location is in the area of the Wendy's restaurant and the Petro-Canada Gas Station. Most of the heavies will pass over here if the wind is right. There is plenty of parking and open space to get great views and photos of aircraft from all angles. This is probably my favorite spotting location in the world.

Wendy's at Toronto. The only place you an order a "side of jet fuel" (Photo by Kyle Dunst)

Air France a340 over the Wendy's Parking lot. (Photo by Kyle Dunst)

Air Canada 777 arriving from Hong Kong (Photo by Kyle Dunst)

KLM Asia Boeing 747 arriving from Amsterdam (Photo by Kyle Dunst)

View YYZ Spotting in a larger map

6 Comments

  1. July 9, 2012    

    Hey, just a quick remark, El Al can and should be written without the slash.

  2. February 16, 2013    

    Hi Kyle,
    This is a great website which provides a lot of information.
    Since a couple of years I’m a aviation videographer at Amsterdam Airport.
    My filmlabel “Valk Aviation” is well known and do have a lot of fans in Canada.
    So thats why I feel a special connection with Canada.
    A friend of mine,retired now,did fly several times with the KLM B747 at Pearson Int.

    Next June ,the 6th.I will come for 10 days to Toronto,together with my father.
    Last year I won two free tickets to Toronto by Air Transat Netherlands.
    We depart at 6 June at AMS and arrive around 12am local time.
    Sunday 16th of June we will fly back to Amsterdam with a sheduled departure at 23.05 pm.

    I do have several questions. Do you want to meet us and lead us around? We will plan to have around 4 or 5 days of spotting. At the other days we want to experience your great country in the area of Toronto.\
    This will be the first time ever in Canada.

    Second question is if you can supply us with any information about good bread&breakfast’s to stay 10 days. We are looking for a reasonable price,so we can allow us to spend the most of the money to watch your area.
    Tips for what we must see and visit are welcome.

    Regards,

    Ralph Valkenier “Valk Aviation”

  3. Stuart Wardman Stuart Wardman
    October 13, 2014    

    Kyle
    Excellant site just one thing as i will be coming in February for a spotting trip is there anywhere in the terminal i would be able to see the planes from as it will be freezing stood outside.
    Any help much appreciated.
    Stuart

  4. June 3, 2015    

    You’re an extremely beneficial site; could not make it without
    ya!

  5. Thanks for finally writing about >Canadas Hub & The Spotters Haven: Lester B.
    Pearson International Airport | Thirty Thousand <Loved it!

  6. Jo Jo
    August 3, 2016    

    Air France does not fly the A380 to Toronto.

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About Kyle

I am a recent college graduate with a degree in Aviation Management. I spend my time as an airline industry professional, private pilot, blogger and world traveler. I have visited 36 countries to date and don't plan on slowing down. This blog is my way of sharing the latest developments in the airline industry as well as experiences from my world travels. All views and opinions are strictly my own.

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