Ottawa International Airport, Ontario, Canada Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Ottawa International Airport, Ontario, Canada

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Ottawa International Airport (CYOW)1 is located in the south end of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Situated 374 feet above sea level (ASL), it serves both commercial carriers and general aviation with three runways: 04/22, 07/25 and 14/322.

The airport serves Ottawa and the surrounding area, which has a population of 1,063,6643. It is an international airport with flights to the US and overseas.

A Brief History

Opened in 1919 as Hunt Club Field, the airport has operated continuously under a variety of names, including Lindbergh Field after Charles Lindbergh visited the airport after his transatlantic flight.

As well as being the main civilian airport serving Ottawa, it was once home to Canadian Forces Base Uplands. Prior to closing in the early 1990s, CFB Uplands had about a dozen hangars of various sizes, all of which have since been demolished, except Hanger 14 which is home to a military vehicle pool.

Flying into CYOW

If you're flying on a commercial carrier, buy a ticket to Ottawa (YOW). Board the plane and within a few hours, get off the plane, and find a bus/taxi/limo into the city.

If you happen to be a pilot, you'll be interested to learn that:

  • The pattern altitude is 1500' ASL
  • Runway 22 uses right-hand traffic to avoid interfering with the South Field
  • The airport authority has recently implemented a landing fee

Runway 04/22

Runway 04/22 is the shortest and narrowest of the three runways at CYOW and primarily serves general aviation users. It is at the north end of the airport and is typically referred to as the North Field by pilots in the Ottawa area. It does not have a lighting system nor instrument approaches, meaning that it can only be used during the day4.

Runway 07/25

Runway 07/25 is the East-West runway serving the south field at CYOW. With a length of 8000 feet, it has both a lighting system and instrument approaches, meaning it can be used 24 hours a day. It is one of the two runways that are used by commercial traffic into and out of CYOW.

Runway 14/32

Runway 14/32 is the north-south runway serving the south field at CYOW. It intersects runway 07/25 about 2000' from the 32 threshold (the approach end of the runway). Like 07/25, it has both a lighting system and instrument approaches. At 10 000 feet, it is the longest of the three runways at the airport. Because the prevailing winds in Ottawa tend to be from the northwest, it sees much of the arriving traffic at Ottawa.

Though it has both an Instrument Landing System (or ILS), and a Non-Directional Beacon (or NDB), it is easy for a pilot to line himself up on final with the runway as the runway is aligned with the 140 radial of the YOW VOR5

The Terminal

The present terminal, which opened in 1987, serves 3.4 million passengers a year6. This figure is about 20% more than is was designed to serve, so a new terminal building is being constructed to the north of the existing terminal. This will have 15 new gates, bringing the total number of gates at the airport to around 45. Due to open in 2004, the new terminal will be linked to the existing terminal building by a passenger bridge. By the time Phase 2 of the expansion is completed in 2010, the existing terminal building will be removed with the new terminal building expanded parallel to runway 14/32 to where the existing terminal building is located.


There are several parking options at CYOW, depending on how long you're staying and how much you're prepared to pay.

If you're just dropping someone off, you can probably stop under the canopy long enough to eject the people from your car. Stop too long, and you can expect a visit from the airport police. If you're foolish enough to leave your car unattended, you'll have a personalized souvenir of the occasion waiting under your windshield wiper when you return - assuming they haven't towed your car away, that is.

If you don't like walking more than half a kilometre to the terminal from your car, you can park in the pay lot at the terminal. You gain access by taking a ticket from the machine and then orbiting the lot in search of the elusive empty parking spot. A nifty feature of this lot is the ability to exit using your credit card. Basically, you swipe your credit card7 at the entrance and the gate opens. Park your car as usual. When you leave, you will be able to use an automated lane. Swipe the same credit card8 and the gate should open.

If you're going on a flight and want to leave your car at the airport while avoiding bankruptcy, you can park in one of the long term parking lots. One of these lots is on Hunt Club Road near Uplands Drive. Rates at this lot are reasonable and there's a shuttle to take you to and from the terminal. As an added perk, you might be able to collect some airline points in the process.

Signs for the various parking lots are posted on all the access routes to the airport.

If you're a pilot looking to park your plane, there are a number of FBOs at the airport who offer various parking options. Some may even waive/reduce your parking fee if you buy fuel from them. Check the Canadian Flight Supplement for contact information.

Finding Something to Eat

There are several options for food at CYOW. In the main part of the terminal building is a food court where there's a deli counter, a Tim Horton's, a Harvey's/Swiss Chalet, a Second Cup Coffee place, a bar called Lumberjack's. You can also buy something to eat inside the departures area.

Finding Something to Buy

In addition to food, there are places to buy things at the airport. There's a fairly diverse magazine shop with more than just magazines, then there's a book store, two or three souvenir shops, a place to buy wine (not duty-free) and a shop with things you might find handy to have when you're travelling. There are also a couple of retail outlets in the departures area.

Duty Free

If you're on an international flight, you can visit the duty-free shop in the departures area.

Money, Money, Money...

There are several ATMs at the airport, mostly located in the central part of the terminal. In addition to ATMs, there is a foreign exchange spot where you can buy and sell foreign currency and travellers' cheques. You can also buy travel insurance from them.

Plane Spotting

Also known as airplane geeking - CYOW lends itself nicely to spying out new planes. There are two vantage points that offer good viewing opportunities of arriving and departing commercial traffic: the thresholds of runways 25 and 32. As with any airport, particularly with the heightened security following the terrorist attacks on 11 September, 2001, you must respect the wishes of airport security.

The threshold of runway 32, in particular, affords the plane spotter a vantage point directly below the final approach path. It is accessible via Leitrim Road which runs east-west, parallel to the southern airport boundary. Though tempting, it is not recommended that you park on the little access road next to the fence. You will almost certainly incur the wrath of airport security. Ditto for the access road running next to the approach lights across the road. Choose your parking spot carefully and be prepared to leave if asked.

The threshold of runway 25 has more places where an airplane geek can stop to watch the planes. Again, parking in the access roads is a no-no. This location will give you a great view of the airplanes as they hold short of the runway prior to take-off. To get here, follow Alert Road south and turn right just after going under the Airport Parkway. Follow it around past the First Air hangers to where it starts to curve to the left. You should be able to find somewhere to stop on your left.

1The ICAO airport code. 2Information in this entry should not be used for navigation purposes. Check the most recent version of the Canadian Flight Supplement for official information.3Population of the Ottawa-Hull CMA. Source: 2001 Census of Population, Statistics Canada.4In aviation terms, this means from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.5A VHF Omni-Range beacon located on the north side of the Ottawa River.6Source: Ottawa International Airport Expansion Project, V.1 N.1, 1 September, 2001.7Do not lose your credit card at the airport.8This is why you shouldn't lose your credit card while at the airport.

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