75 years told
A Communications Chevalier publication
Concept, production and publishing: Manon Chevalier, president, Communications Chevalier
Copy consultant: Jacques Girard
Contributors: Gilles Deschênes and Mathieu Sisto
Copywriting: Johanne de Bellefeuille
English translation: Judith Berman
Revision: Nataly Rainville
Proofreading: Nylda Aktouf and Jane Jackel
Graphic design: Langevin et Turcotte
Production assistant: Mériem Ledoré
Photography: Caroline Bergeron, Aéroports de Montréal, Groupe Blimp, Le Devoir, Allan De La Plante, AP-Chao Soi Cheong/The Canadian Press, Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images
Cover photo: Caroline Bergeron
Video design: Groupe Blimp
Web and iOS development: Air Code Design
Montréal-Trudeau turns 75 in September 2016. Since its modest beginnings, the Dorval airport has undergone remarkable changes and met the considerable challenge of growth.
In the early 1940s, Dorval was the departure point for a dozen national flights. Today, Montreal is a major air hub. Thirty airlines now offer 135 direct flights from YUL, more than 100 of them to U.S. and international destinations. Montréal-Trudeau is an essential part of our tourism, business and trade infrastructure, contributing actively to the city’s growth and economic vitality.
For many people, this anniversary is bound to bring up indelible memories: departures filled with anticipation, emotional reconnections, life-changing encounters, and milestone moments.
The articles and archival photos in this supplement will help you experience – or relive – some of the major events that have marked the airport’s 75-year history: truly unique events, such as the arrival of the Beatles; historic times, such as the extraordinary summer of Expo 67; and annual festivities, such as those surrounding the Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Many famous people have kindly shared their favourite airport memories and anecdotes. Among them, Jean-Luc Brassard recalls his return from Lillehammer, Simple Plan remembers their faithful fans, Danièle Henkel relives her emotional reunion with her family, and Julie Payette remembers the first flight that changed the course of her life.
After reading, you will be all the more knowledgeable about the formidable team that makes Montréal-Trudeau run, and keeps it ranking high among international airports. In particular, you will learn how the ADM team manages the sizable challenges of winter, and how strategic planning is ensuring a very bright future.
You are invited to the party, because the anniversary of Montréal-Trudeau is a celebration of everyone who uses the airport, and all the Montrealers who are so proud of it. We hope you’ll enjoy this bit of time travel back into a historic past and into a thrilling future!
James C. Cherry
President and CEO
Aéroports de Montréal
From the day it opened in 1941, the Dorval airport has exemplified all things modern.
On September 1, 1941, a brand new airport opened for business on the site of the old Dorval racetrack, just west of Montreal. The airport began operations with a plan that included three runways. The old Saint-Hubert airport, in service since 1927, could no longer meet Montreal’s aviation needs, which were dictated largely by the world war that raged at the time. Dorval Airport thus began with a primarily military vocation, as transatlantic flights were seen as the best means to counter enemy submarine attacks. It was a resolutely modern facility.
From 1941 to 1945, the airport trained pilots from the Commonwealth countries and sent 10,000 military aircraft off to Europe to support the war effort. When the war ended in 1945, Dorval was rededicated to civil aviation, which was on the rise. That year, four airlines offered 22 scheduled flights. About 500 travellers passed through Dorval every day, and the airport was designated by the Canadian government as the mandatory port of entry for eastern Canada.
In 1946, 250,000 travellers used the airport. Air France set up shop there in 1950, and the following year, Trans-Canada Airlines, which would later become Air Canada, introduced its Montreal-Paris flight. By 1952, annual traffic had reached 590,000 passengers and many other airlines began operating out of Dorval.
By 1955, Dorval had become Canada’s leading airport, with more than a million passengers. The following year, the first big expansion began, including the construction of a terminal to serve freight flights coming from Europe. Work was completed on December 15, 1960, at a cost of $30 million, and the airport was renamed Aéroport international Dorval de Montréal/Montréal-Dorval International Airport. In 1961, the country’s largest, most modern air terminal welcomed more than two million passengers.
During the 1960s, Quebecers began travelling more, tourist traffic increased enormously, and the airport found itself at the heart of this growth. Demand was so huge that a new airport was built to handle international flights. Montréal-Mirabel International Airport opened its doors in 1975, just in time for the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. But in 1997, regularly scheduled international flights were once again directed to Montréal-Dorval, leading the airport to embark on its most ambitious renovation project to date.
Over the years, from 1946 to 2016, the number of travellers passing through Montréal-Trudeau, formerly Dorval airport, has grown from 250,000 a year to 16 million! More than 30,000 people now work for the companies operating on site at the airport, not counting the 28,000 or so indirect and related jobs pertaining to those business activities. Montréal-Trudeau is the economic engine of a flourishing industry and an entire region. Go ahead and be proud: Montréal-Trudeau is YOUR airport!
As we embarked on the new millennium, Montréal-Trudeau began a veritable metamorphosis. Since the year 2000, Aéroports de Montréal has invested more than $2.5 billion to double terminal capacity and create a world-class airport, as well as confirm its leadership role in airport technology.
Infrastructure work began in 2000: it included a new trans-border jetty, a new international jetty and a modern international arrivals complex comprising a large customs hall and baggage claim area. The main portion of this huge project was completed in 2006, and in 2009, a new transborder departure area and a four-star hotel were opened.
All this growth has occurred with environmental concerns in mind, from reducing greenhouse gas emissions and noise levels to ensuring sustainable development. Although the terminal practically doubled in area as a result of the renovations, its energy consumption has been reduced by half, primarily thanks to the installation of a new high-performance thermal power plant in 2003.
Early in the process, self-serve check-in kiosks were set up as an alternate solution to conventional counters. This sparked a virtual revolution in self-service, which has gradually been extended to other stages of the travel process, such as baggage tagging and drop-off, and passport control. In fact, Montréal-Trudeau is known for its many innovations in this area.
As for security, ADM is working with the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Air Transport Association, the Airports Council International, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority and other organizations, with a view to developing the next generation of security screening checkpoints. The goal of this cooperative effort is to speed up the departure process and minimize the inconvenience to passengers, while maintaining the highest standards of security.
The start of the 21st century has seen constant, balanced growth at Montréal-Trudeau, an airport that is anchored solidly in the present and contemplating the future with enthusiasm.
On January 1, 2004, Dorval airport was renamed Montréal-Trudeau, but some will always know it as YUL. While the three letters may be very familiar to airline companies and frequent flyers, their origins are a little less well known.
As the number of airports around the world began increasing during the 1930s, it became necessary to identify each one by a code. Codes beginning with Y were reserved for Canada and, in the case of Montréal-Trudeau, the remaining two letters – U and L – correspond to the frequency emitted by the radio beacon in Kirkland, near Dorval. Thus, the code indicates that the airport is in Canada, near the Kirkland beacon.
Two international organizations manage the world’s airport codes: ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and IATA, the International Air Transport Association. ICAO codes have four letters, but the more commonly used IATA codes have only three.
As Montréal-Trudeau has become a key player in international air transport, so has it become the Canadian capital of civil aviation. Both ICAO and IATA have their head offices in the city, as does ACI, Airports Council International.
“Montréal-Trudeau is now one of the nicest airports in the world. They have done some really outstanding work. I often hear compliments about the airport, and I find that very gratifying. Since this is my second home, I want it to be beautiful and welcoming!”
It would be hard to find a week when Daniel Lamarre does not set foot in Montréal-Trudeau. And he swells with pride each time he notes the changes that have made HIS airport such a unique place. “Montréal-Trudeau is now one of the nicest airports in the world. They have done some really outstanding work. I often hear compliments about the airport, and I find that very gratifying. I have witnessed the metamorphosis over the years. Since this is my second home, I want it to be beautiful and welcoming!”
This is indeed the second home in which Lamarre greets Cirque du Soleil’s many guests. “We forget sometimes, but the airport is the first message a city conveys to its visitors. I have been in airports all over the world, and I can tell you off the top of my head which ones are magnificent and which are not quite up to par. That first impression can colour your whole memory of a city. It’s hugely important to me that our airport convey a warm welcome.”
Lamarre actually likes to spend time at Montréal-Trudeau. Not because he has to, but because he enjoys it. “I always arrive well before my flight, because there is so much to do. You can shop, eat in fine restaurants, hang out in the lounge, even get your shoes shined! You can also find a quiet place to sit and read. It’s not just a place to catch a plane, it’s a pleasant place to be. Everyone in my office always laughs when I say this, but I love travelling. Even after having been around the world, I continue globe-trotting for the Cirque, and I still love it.”
This world traveller has memories to spare, but one event in particular stands out for him. “It was in 1992, when Sylvie Fréchette came back from the Barcelona Olympics. I was there, because I myself had coordinated her arrival for NATIONAL public relations.” You may recall that Sylvie Fréchette had missed winning the gold medal for synchronized swimming because of an error by the Brazilian judge. A huge media contingent was on hand for her arrival. “I was really impressed by the airport’s VIP services. We were able to avoid the crush and organize the press conference for Sylvie.”
Daniel Lamarre speaks about the past, present and future of Montréal-Trudeau as a privileged witness to its evolution. “What stands out for me at Montréal-Trudeau are the remarkable improvements we all enjoy. And there are more to come!”
“An airport is the gateway to a city. Visitors step through it into a whole new world. For me, Montréal-Trudeau airport is like the gateway to the Maison symphonique!”
Kent Nagano is a frequent and passionate traveller. “I have to travel a lot for my work, which takes me to every corner of the world. As a result, I spend a great deal of time in planes and airports. At Montréal-Trudeau, I am aware of the effort that has been made to keep things on a human scale. When you land at some of the giant airports, like Heathrow in London or Charles-de-Gaulle in Paris, you don’t sense the personal touch that makes Montréal-Trudeau so charming. Our airport is like our city: relaxed and welcoming.”
That unique charm colours the way visitors perceive the city, particularly with regard to the cultural activities on offer, which are nicely highlighted at the airport. “Montreal’s Maison symphonique is an outstanding destination for music lovers. One-time visitors and regular Montreal concert-goers always enjoy a memorable cultural experience at our beautiful symphony hall. An airport is the gateway to a city. Visitors step through it into a whole new world. For me, Montréal-Trudeau airport is like the gateway to the Maison symphonique!”
Kent Nagano was born in Berkeley, California, in 1951. He began his career at the Boston Opera House in 1977 and came to Montreal for the first time at the invitation of Charles Dutoit, his predecessor at the OSM. “I was immediately smitten by this city and its orchestra. Even today, although I continue to live in San Francisco, coming to Montreal feels like coming home.” Nagano has filled the prestigious position of OSM Music Director since September 2006.
For this world traveller, frequent flying provides fodder for interesting and amusing anecdotes. “I have some rather unusual luggage, made by a small company that designs simple, practical pieces that you don’t often see on airport carousels. One day, I collected my bags as usual and headed to my hotel. Imagine my surprise when I opened the first suitcase to find it full of women’s clothing! Same with the second bag. I’m sure the woman who found her suitcases full of Beethoven scores was equally astonished. That was some coincidence!”
It was Tuesday, September 8, 1964. The day after Labour Day. The first day of school. But for a few thousand young people – mostly girls – school would have to wait one more day. Because this was not just any Tuesday. John, Paul, George and Ringo were coming and Dorval was about to experience the full force of Beatlemania.
At 2:24 p.m., four long-haired lads got off a plane from Toronto to a welcome by about 5,000 screaming fans waiting for them at the airport, under the watchful eye of 120 RCMP officers.
The fans crowded onto the observation deck overlooking the runway to get the best view of their idols, who had come to play two shows at the Forum that day, one at 4 p.m., the other at 8:30 p.m. Ticket prices were $4.50 for the side tiers and $5.50 on the floor. A total of 21,000 people would attend the history-making performances.
After the second show, the Beatles were supposed to spend the night at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel on Dorchester Boulevard (now René-Lévesque). But instead, they headed straight from the Forum to Dorval, at around 11 p.m., to board a flight for Florida, where they were scheduled to play in Jacksonville three days later. With the rain coming down in torrents, 300 die-hard fans gathered to wave good-bye to their beloved Beatles, who would never again return to Montreal as a band.
It was another five years before a Beatle came back. John Lennon landed at Dorval on May 26, 1969, for his famous Bed-in for Peace. This time, it was a much more low-key event: at around 9 p.m., Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, slipped by a few hundred curious onlookers who had heard rumours of their arrival.
Just a few months later, the Beatles officially broke up, making Beatlemania nothing but a memory, albeit a very powerful one for those 5,000 kids who played hooky on that first day of school in 1964.
“The first time people came to greet us at the airport we had a taste of what the Beatles must have felt when they arrived in Montreal in 1964.”
It’s definitely not a thing of the past. Screaming fans still flock to Montréal-Trudeau to welcome the objects of their adoration. World-famous Montreal rock band Simple Plan knows the scene well. “The first time people came to greet us at the airport we had a taste of what the Beatles must have felt when they arrived in Montreal in 1964,” says drummer Chuck Comeau. “And because we’re from here, some of our local fans think of us as friends. The most dedicated of them even ask us what we did for fun on the weekend! We know them by name, and they ask us how things are going. Relations between bands and their fans are so much closer now than they were in the Beatles’ day.”
Simple Plan cultivates that close connection with their admirers, just as they enjoy a comfortable familiarity with Montréal-Trudeau employees. “We’ve passed through the airport hundreds of times,” says Comeau. “We’ve taken so many flights that some of the security staff recognize us now. They’ll say things like ‘You again?’ or ‘We haven’t seen you in a while!’ We have definitely spent a lot of time in the Montreal airport, especially from 2002 to 2009. When we first started out, we were on the road 300 days a year. We’d come back, visit our parents to do some laundry, and be off again the next day. Montréal-Trudeau was like our second home.”
Not that the experience ever lost its thrill. “It’s still a blast. Sure, in the beginning, everything was new. None of us had families yet. We’d take off on an adventure, never knowing what might await us. But even now, I get excited as the departure date approaches. Every time we go somewhere, it’s to realize our dream. And when we fly to a place we’ve never been, it’s even more fun.”
Coming back to Montreal is all about familiarity and reconnecting with their longtime fans. “The fans still come to welcome us at Montréal-Trudeau, just not hundreds of them anymore. After all, we’re here so often, people would have to pretty much live here if they wanted to greet us every single time! Sometimes, when we arrive in certain countries and the welcome committee is small, we wonder whether our popularity is waning, but not here. Here is home.”
In the spring of 1967, Montreal opened its doors to the world at Expo 67. From April 27 to October 29, the city was expecting the World’s Fair to attract more than 50 million visitors from around the globe, mostly from the United States.
A major reconfiguration of the transborder facilities would be required to handle the historic traffic, but the infrastructure expansion of 1960 had already made Dorval an international-calibre airport.
The 1960s were boom years for the airport industry. More people were travelling than ever before, and flights were becoming more frequent. Passenger traffic at Dorval was increasing by about 20% a year, with more than four million people passing through in 1965. By 1967, the airport had become a gateway to the world, and another million people were expected to land there because of Expo 67.
The International and Universal Exposition, as it was officially known, is now considered the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century. Montreal – and Quebec – were opening their doors to the world and entering the modern era with full force. Clearly, the Dorval airport would have to be up to the task!
It would prove to be no problem. In 1960, Dorval had inaugurated its new terminal – a large, modern facility designed to handle 10 million travellers a year. Eighteen airlines were now operating out of the airport, which had become a model in the industry, with technical services on the cutting edge of the time.
From April through October, 1967, 53 heads of state landed at Dorval on their way to visit Expo 67. Queen Elizabeth II, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, and King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece were among them. French President Charles de Gaulle was greeted by Quebec Premier Daniel Johnson in Quebec City, and then escorted to Montreal, where he made his famous “Vive le Québec libre!” speech from the balcony of City Hall, on July 24, 1967. De Gaulle’s visit to Ottawa was cancelled as a result, and he flew back to France in the presidential DC-8, which took off from Dorval on July 26 at 4:22 p.m.
At Expo 67, 60 pavilions represented 120 countries and states. But most importantly, the event marked the emergence of Montreal as an international city, now ready to receive a steady and ever-increasing flow of visitors.
“Making airports responsible for their own development and turning them into corporations had a lot to do with the growth of Montréal-Trudeau. Management was able to take charge and create an airport of which we can all be proud.”
Pierre Jeanniot is a world-class authority on aviation. He was President and CEO of Air Canada from 1984 to 1990, and served as Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) from 1993 to 2002. He is also recognized as the father of the flight data recorder, or “black box,” as it is known today. “The impetus for that was the terrible accident in Sainte-Thérèse, when a Trans-Canada Airlines plane crashed four minutes after takeoff, claiming the lives of all 118 people on board. That was in 1963, and while the aircraft had a rudimentary black box, it was destroyed in the crash and the cause of the accident could never be determined. At the time, I was working on designing a system for recording flight data to help with preventive maintenance. I realized such a device could also be helpful in analyzing accident data, and got the idea to put it into a crash-resistant container.”
Thus was launched the career of this passionate innovator, who has left many a mark on the industry, including orchestrating the privatization of Air Canada in 1988. “Obviously, the transformation from Crown Corporation to fully private company was a significant change. We had to revise our work methods, modify the fleet and change our funding structures. It was a time of turmoil, to be sure, but we made it happen; the company emerged in good shape and went on to prosper.”
Another sizable challenge awaited Mr. Jeanniot when he was appointed Director General and CEO of IATA in 1993. “I think the biggest challenge was changing people’s mentality. IATA was an international organization and it had such a heavy bureaucracy! I wanted to introduce a customer-centric approach, in particular, by treating our partners like clients, not members. There was also the issue of air safety, which needed significant improvement. The accident rate fell by half during the 10 years I was at the helm of IATA. There were other concerns, as well. At the time, Asia was in full expansion and IATA did not have a strong presence there. I opened an office in China, and that office is now very important in the IATA network. We had to create services to meet the specific needs of China.”
In this anniversary year for Montréal-Trudeau, Pierre Jeanniot looks back over its impressive history: “Making airports responsible for their own development and turning them into corporations had a lot to do with the growth of Montréal-Trudeau. Management was able to take charge and create an airport of which we can all be proud. It is gratifying to see the increase in passenger traffic and the number of international flights. The airport has done an excellent job.”
“We have come to learn,” said the Soviets. Facing off for the first time against professional players from the National Hockey League, the USSR national team nonetheless struck a little fear into the hearts of the Canadians, who ended up winning the Series of the Century in the eighth and final game, played in Moscow. Although it hadn’t been the rout people had expected, the fans were still out in force to greet their hockey heroes when they returned to Dorval on October 1, 1972.
On September 2, 1972, Team Canada, made up of some of the best players in the NHL, began a much-anticipated Summit Series against the Soviet national team, considered the best “amateur” team in the world at the time. It was an interesting use of the word amateur. Because professionals were not allowed to compete in the Olympics back then, the Soviet players all had nominal jobs; in fact, however, they were all professional hockey players. The first four games were played in Canada, in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
This was the first time NHL players had faced their Soviet counterparts. And while many had forecast an overwhelming victory for Canada, it was not exactly a walk in the park. The final honours ultimately went to Team Canada – which included the legendary Ken Dryden, Serge Savard, Bobby Clarke, Phil Esposito and Yvan Cournoyer – when they won the deciding game on September 28, in Moscow.
Some 1,750 diehard Canadian hockey fans went to the Soviet Union to cheer their team, as part of a tour organized by Air Canada. The entire country erupted when Paul Henderson scored the winning goal for Canada with 34 seconds left to play in the eighth and final match.
When they returned home, the team was greeted by a horde of fans, reporters and politicians, including Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 people were at Dorval to catch a glimpse of their hockey heroes, and they were not disappointed when the whole team was paraded around the airport on top of a fire truck.
Despite the royal welcome, the players had to show a little humility, since they had not lived up to the expectations of a five-game sweep, predicted by so many sportswriters of the time.
“I love logistics and I love when everything works smoothly. The new baggage handling system, the automation, all the changes: Montréal-Trudeau is an airport in constant evolution. It seems as though they never stop making improvements.”
In 75 years of operation, Montréal-Trudeau has seen its share of athletes. Among them is a 21-year-old skier who was blown away by the efficient handling of the Canadian freestyle ski team upon its return from the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994. “When we landed, the flight attendants asked us to stay seated and not deplane with the rest of the passengers,” recalls Jean-Luc Brassard. “Then they came to get us. We all got off together and were led to an area that had been set aside for us. There was a huge crowd holding signs. So many people had come to greet us, it was almost embarrassing. What an outpouring of love!”
That much love can be overwhelming. “We were accompanied by security guards, and it was very well organized. It surprised me, really; they never left us alone the whole time. The reception area was well cordoned off, everything was carefully planned. People had access to us without getting too close. We were even offered a snack and some water before we went through to Customs. It had been a really long trip home and this was a truly fantastic welcome.”
Although Brassard retired from competitive skiing in 2002, he remains a passionate traveller. The host of the TV show Comment c’est fait ? (How It’s Made) is also curious by nature. “I love logistics and I love when everything works smoothly. The new baggage handling system, the automation, all the changes: Montréal-Trudeau is an airport in constant evolution. It seems as though they never stop making improvements.”
Aside from the well-oiled logistics, Brassard also appreciates the human contact at Montréal-Trudeau. “The people who work at the airport reflect the nature of Quebecers. They are pleasant, professional, respectful and relaxed.”
The former athlete admits that he is enjoying the anonymity he has found in retirement. “When I’m wandering around the airport, I occasionally catch someone staring at me. The funny thing is that people recognize my face, but more often than not, they don’t remember my name.”
This lets him do some observing of his own. “I still spend a lot of time in airports and I come in contact with thousands of people. It’s always fascinating to see what an emotional place an airport can be, even though air travel is more common than ever. You can sense the excitement when people say goodbye to each other or reconnect again. You can’t help but be touched.”
“When I fly out on an expedition somewhere, I tend not to focus so much on the departure, which can be difficult, but on the return, which is always fantastic! Every time I come home, there’s this little guy who runs through the airport and jumps into my arms. That makes for wonderful memories!”
To say that explorers travel a lot is a bit of an understatement. And they don’t travel light. “The whole film crew travels together,” says the biologist and explorer. “And there are so many details to attend to before we leave. We have a booklet we have to show at Customs that explains all the equipment we’re travelling with. Compared to other international airports, it’s so much easier dealing with Customs and administrative services here at Montréal-Trudeau! And of course we have tons of baggage, some of it oversize. It’s the most difficult part of each trip, no matter where we’re going.
“Over the last three years, I’ve been filming episodes for the show 1000 jours pour la planète (1,000 days for the planet). I had some major adventures, travelling to places that were often isolated and hard to get to. Coming back to the airport is like coming home. And since we always have so much baggage, we are always among the last to come through the doors. But every time, my son Loïc comes running, calling ‘Daddy!’ and jumps into my arms. That makes for wonderful memories.”
Montréal-Trudeau Airport holds endless fine memories for the world-travelling filmmaker. “Montrealers are what make this city so fantastic and welcoming. And the same holds true for Montréal-Trudeau. Montréal is just made differently; there’s something special about it that distinguishes it from other cities and that is reflected in the airport. It has that little je ne sais quoi that makes you feel good as soon as you arrive. In most big airports, you get the feeling that you’re just passing through, that it’s just a step on the way to somewhere else. You don’t feel like you’re in the city, and it’s often very cold. All the services are there, but you’re just lost in the crowd. In Montreal, it’s different. There’s more emotion, at both departures and arrivals. That’s because of the people who work there and welcome you. Of course, when you live here, you feel a sense of belonging that you don’t feel in other airports, but I think that visitors also appreciate that special sense of welcome. And the whole place is fabulously efficient. Some airports are ridiculously disorganized, but here, everything runs smoothly. And trust me, I’ve seen a few airports!”
Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport is used primarily by people travelling for business and pleasure. But it is a gateway for others, as well, including immigrants, returnees, refugees and people seeking refugee status. On occasion, the airport is called upon to play a key role in large-scale humanitarian operations.
Two examples come immediately to mind: the repatriation of Canadian nationals following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 and, more recently, the welcoming of 11,000 Syrian refugees who had been languishing for years in makeshift camps in various countries in the Middle East.
Most of us remember clearly the horrific magnitude 7 earthquake that struck Haiti at 4:53 p.m. on January 12, 2010, killing more than 230,000 people, wounding another 300,000 and leaving 1.2 million without shelter. In the weeks following the catastrophe, some 4,000 Canadian nationals were returned home on 46 flights to Montréal-Trudeau. Among them were 126 orphaned children, come to meet their new families. The children and parents were able to be united quickly, since the adoption proceedings had begun prior to the earthquake and were in the final stages of approval by Haitian authorities. Given the urgency of the situation, the Canadian government allowed the children to leave for Canada as soon as possible.
Similarly, Montréal-Trudeau was quickly designated as the entry point for flights bringing Canadian nationals home. It took fast action to ensure a dignified welcome for these people, all of whom had been significantly affected by the disaster. Two gates in the aeroquay – a facility set back from the terminal building – were assigned to this special operation, along with about 40 airport and government agency employees. A procedure for the speedy and efficient processing of passengers helped transfer the new arrivals as quickly as possible to the Organisation de la sécurité civile du Québec (the Quebec public safety organization that handles humanitarian operations), while the wounded were taken by ambulance to local hospitals.
This remarkable humanitarian operation revealed the efficiency and dedication of the Montréal-Trudeau teams, who worked 24-hour shifts to provide the best possible service. It was an extremely moving experience that no one involved will soon forget.
About five years later, Montréal-Trudeau was called upon once again to help with a humanitarian operation initiated by the Government of Canada. This time, 11,000 Syrian refugees were arriving on some 40 flights originating in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
When the first flight landed on December 12, 2015, Montréal-Trudeau was ready and waiting. In just a few weeks, the airport had worked with government services to make sure everything was set up to receive the refugees as safely, efficiently and humanely as possible.
When they exited the aircraft, the refugees were shuttled to the processing centre set up in the aeroquay. Representatives from various government departments and agencies ensured a smooth entry, assisted by airport security personnel, translators and volunteers. First responders from the fire department and Urgences-santé ambulance technicians were also on hand. Once the formalities had been completed, the refugees were taken by bus to the Canadian government welcome centre.
The operation had a remarkable mobilizing effect on all involved, and everyone was truly proud to be a part of it.
“Every time the door would open to let people out, I’d stand on my toes to see if my family had arrived. Tears were streaming down my cheeks. Just talking about it now brings the emotion right to the surface.”
For many people, Danièle Henkel is the “dragon” from Dans l’œil du dragon, a television show broadcast on ICI Radio-Canada Télé. But she is primarily a successful businesswoman. And a huge traveller. “For me, Montréal-Trudeau is about the people, first and foremost. They are fine human beings, open to finding solutions. I remember one time when I had missed a flight scheduled only every three days. Some extraordinary people worked very hard to reroute me to a connection that got me to my destination.”
Henkel may be used to travelling, but she is still a nervous flyer. “Every time I get on a plane, and goodness knows I do that frequently, I have to put myself in God’s hands. I tell myself I should just get used to it, but it’s so hard for me. All my life, I have wanted to be free – free to do what I want, with respect for my environment and the people around me. I hate being told what to do; I like to be in control. An airplane is the only place where I have no choice but to submit! So I appreciate all the more the humanity and understanding of airport personnel.”
Airports are particularly significant for Henkel, as they symbolize the new life she sought in Canada. She landed in Quebec 25 years ago, fleeing the rise of fundamentalism in Algeria. “I arrived with my eldest daughter and my husband at the time. My three other children and my mother came six months later. When I went to get them at the airport, I was in quite a state. Again, people were so nice to me! Every time the door would open to let people out, I’d stand on my toes to see if my family had arrived. Tears were streaming down my cheeks. Just talking about it now brings the emotion right to the surface. The door opened and I saw two Customs officers with my mother, in her wheelchair, and my three children. I was on my knees as they came to me. It was an overwhelming moment, with the police and other personnel…even the people around us were crying. I will never forget how supported I felt.”
Not every trip to the airport is as emotionally charged as that one, of course, but whenever Danièle Henkel travels, whether for business or for pleasure, she is always proud of her airport. “I’ve watched as improvements have been made over the years and I think we now have an international airport truly worthy of the name. It rivals the finest in the world.”
“Normally, I write in total silence. I don’t even listen to music. And yet, I love writing in the airport. There’s so much noise, but you can’t distinguish anything. It becomes a background hum and I get inspired.”
Kim Thúy is a popular writer and a great traveller. In fact, she travels so often that she makes very little fuss about leaving.
“I don’t want people to think I’m cold, but I’m really not very demonstrative at departure time,” she says. “A few years ago, I was leaving for an assignment that would take me to Vietnam for several months. My brothers and my then-boyfriend-now-husband drove me to the airport, and we were keeping our emotions under wraps. I remember my husband had to force me to hug my brothers when it was time to say goodbye!”
The writer says she knows Montréal-Trudeau like the back of her hand. “Once I was printing out my ticket and an employee recognized me. That’s when I realized how often I’m at the airport! I actually spend so much time in the airport bookstore that I’ve developed a relationship with the man who runs it. Even if I don’t need anything, I stop in to say hello and have a chat. And I usually take the opportunity to sign a few copies of my books on the shelves. I even invited the bookseller and some of his customers to the launch of my second book, À toi. I still spend time in the bookstore, which is right by gate 57!”
Thúy cultivates the feeling of being completely at home in the airport. “I love the waiting time before the flight. I generally use it to answer emails and I’m always sorry when I arrive on the late side. That waiting time is a real time-out for me, when I have no responsibilities towards anyone else and answer only to myself. Once I get to the gate, I feel like there is nothing left to do – everything is out of my hands. It becomes a precious and solitary moment of peace.”
It is also a chance for the author to create, despite the unusual setting. “Normally, I write in total silence. I don’t even listen to music. And yet, I love writing in the airport. There’s so much noise, but you can’t distinguish anything. It becomes a background hum and I get inspired.”
Some events take centre stage at the airport year after year. The Canada Formula 1 Grand Prix is a case in point, bringing a huge amount of excitement to the city and its airport. From the Wednesday preceding the event to the Tuesday following it, airport traffic swells considerably, to as many as 50,000-60,000 passengers a day.
It’s one of the busiest periods on the calendar, and it comes with a sizable logistical challenge. The Canada Formula 1 Grand Prix is also a very glamorous affair that brings a veritable wave of humanity flowing through Montréal-Trudeau airport. While about half of all spectators are from Quebec, one-quarter of them come from the U.S., 20% come from across Canada, and 10% are from elsewhere in the world. The event generates an estimated $70-$90 million in economic spinoffs for Montreal.
Not surprisingly, the days leading up to the race are a big deal for the airport, which handles a significant percentage of visitors.
Montreal first caught Formula 1 fever in 1978 and was rewarded with a win by favourite son Gilles Villeneuve. From then on, Montreal became an international centre of F1 racing, the only one in North America. Dorval was already the main gateway for F1 visitors and racing teams, while the F1 cars have always gone through Mirabel Airport.
In 2012, just a few days before the Grand Prix, new self-service kiosks were introduced to help people clear Customs and Immigration more quickly and easily. F1 fans continue to appreciate speedy processing that gets them to the festivities that much sooner!
“It was May 10, 1982. Gilles Villeneuve was coming home to Quebec in a coffin. It was a reverent moment, and despite all the usual noise in the airport, everyone was silent. We learned that a funeral would be held a few days later at the little Sainte-Geneviève-de-Berthier church in Berthierville. It was all highly emotional.”
Paul Houde knows everything about planes. He’s not just enthusiastic about them, he is deeply passionate. As a child, he learned to identify all the different aircraft and got so good he could recognize the sound of each engine. It goes without saying that he’s very familiar with Montréal-Trudeau. But one specific event in the airport’s history is etched forever in his memory. “Monday, May 10, 1982, a Canadian Armed Forces Boeing 707 brought Gilles Villeneuve home in a coffin. The plane landed in the evening, around 8 p.m. I remember it was kind of cold. On board were his wife, Joann, and their two children, Jacques, 10, and Mélanie, 8. South African racer Jody Scheckter and his wife, close friends of the Villeneuves, were with them.”
As many will remember, Gilles Villeneuve died in a tragic accident on the track at Zolder, in Belgium, on May 8, 1982.
For Houde, details are everything and his remarkable memory allows him to recall every moment of that moving event. “I remember that the plane arrived at gate 27, Gilles Villeneuve’s racing number. Airport employees had formed a semi-circle of honour with about 60 vehicles, lights flashing. Journalist Christian Tortora, who was on the plane, spoke briefly to the media, and then Joann Villeneuve and her children boarded a helicopter for an unknown destination.”
Houde also remembers the respectful atmosphere, even with the normal noise and goings-on. “It was a reverent moment, and despite all the usual noise in the airport, everyone was silent. We learned that a funeral would be held a few days later at the little Sainte-Geneviève-de-Berthier church in Berthierville. It was all highly emotional.” A favourite son was returning home.
Gilles Villeneuve would live on in Quebec memory, first through his son, Jacques, who became Formula 1 champion in 1997, and then when the Grand Prix track on Île Notre-Dame was renamed Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve. The Canadian Grand Prix continues to be one of the events that marks the history of Montréal-Trudeau year after year, with airport traffic rising significantly in the days leading up to the race. “While the return of Gilles Villeneuve was the most memorable event for me, I could easily tell you about many others. I never get tired of hanging out at the airport and watching the planes. It really is one of my greatest passions.”
New York, September 11, 2001, 8:46 a.m. A hijacked American Airlines Boeing 767 flies into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Seventeen minutes later, a second plane hits the south tower. At 9:42 a.m., just minutes after another plane deliberately crashes into the side of the Pentagon, all air traffic over the U.S. is grounded. A page in history had just been written. From then on, there would always be a before and an after September 11.
Air travel had changed forever. By flying the planes they had hijacked into civil and military targets, Al-Qaeda terrorists forced a radical transformation of security measures at airports around the world, including Montréal-Trudeau.
Other incidents, such as the fortunately failed shoe bomb plot on board American Airlines flight 63 from Paris to Miami in December 2001, also inspired new security measures, including the removal of footwear and restrictions on liquids and gels.
Some passengers grumbled during the first months following the implementation of new security protocols, but it soon became business as usual. Fifteen years later, everyone now has the drill down and expects to go through security before heading to the departure gate. People have learned not to carry large quantities of liquid in their carry-ons, they walk willingly through the scanner, and it’s no big deal when a security agent asks to examine a laptop.
But it was not easy restoring confidence among the flying public. “I flew during the week following September 11, and I wasn’t at all scared,” says James C. Cherry, President and CEO of Aéroports de Montréal. “But it took some travellers more time to feel safe again. In 2001, we lost 30% of North American flights. People just didn’t want to fly anymore. It wasn’t until 2004 that air traffic returned to normal.”
Still, the carefree attitude of air travel in the “good old days” is gone. “Security will always be a priority,” concludes Cherry. “It’s a complex task, but we are always working to achieve the best possible balance: keeping intrusive measures to a minimum while ensuring maximum vigilance.”
“Security and the means to ensure it have become our top priority since the events of September 2001. Investments of more than $2 billion have allowed us to expand and upgrade our facilities and improve protection for the travelling public.”
James C. Cherry was destined to head Aéroports de Montréal. An aviation enthusiast, he took up the reins in June 2001, just a few months before a crisis of historic proportions shook the air travel industry. Today, he speaks passionately about the evolution and future of Montréal-Trudeau.
Where were you at 8:46 a.m. on September 11, 2001? James C. Cherry remembers as though it were yesterday. He was in Montreal, attending the ACI World and ACI North America conferences, along with 2,200 delegates from airports around the globe and then federal Transport Minister David Collenette. Rumours began circulating that a small plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers, probably a stupid accident. The conference organizers set the giant screens to broadcast CNN, which is how the world’s leading airport experts watched the first tower come down and grasped the scope of the event. “By 10 a.m., the complete closure of North American airspace had been ordered, and it would not reopen for another two days. Meanwhile, the return of the U.S. airport administrators had to be arranged by car and bus. Talk about a logistical challenge! When I got home that night, I asked my wife and daughters, ‘What have I got myself into?’ But the crisis taught me that I could trust the professional people around me. I was so impressed by their competence and dedication.”
The event would forever change the way Cherry viewed his airport. “Security and the means to ensure it have become our top priority since the events of September 2001.”
He continues: “In addition, we now have a platform to access financial markets. In particular, that allows us to issue very long-term, 30-year bonds. Investments of more than $2 billion have allowed us to expand and upgrade our facilities and improve protection for the travelling public. In fact, those investments have created an opportunity to rethink modern airport design. As people became accustomed to going through security, they began coming earlier and that meant making changes to the restricted zone because travellers were spending more time there. So we added more restaurants and boutiques on the other side of the security checkpoint. The way people travel has changed and airports have to adjust to the new reality.” Which is exactly what Montréal-Trudeau has done.
Under the enlightened management of James C. Cherry, Montréal-Trudeau has confirmed its place among the great international airports. Over the years, more than $2.5 billion has gone into expanding, upgrading and modernizing the facilities to make Montréal-Trudeau a user-friendly, high-tech, world-class airport of which all Montrealers can be proud. But resting on its laurels is not an option and it continues to seek out new carriers and flights to new destinations. This airport is contemporary, classy and cutting edge – and has been for 75 years!
“The most important quality a dog handler must have is a passion for dogs. You bring the animal home, it becomes part of the family. It’s with you 24/7, pretty much all year long. Under those circumstances, you’d better enjoy its company.”
At Montréal-Trudeau, security is a very high-tech affair.
But when it comes to checking suspicious bags, a traditional method turns out to be most effective: detection dogs. Since 1999, a team of five dog handlers has been cruising through the airport. All have been trained by Yanick Choquette. “The most important quality a dog handler must have is a passion for dogs,” he says. “You bring the animal home, it becomes part of the family. It’s with you 24/7, pretty much all year long. Under those circumstances, you’d better enjoy its company.”
The dogs, mostly male German Shepherds, work three to four hours a day. When not on the job, they are in training, and if a call comes in, they have to be ready. “We might call in a dog handler when an unclaimed suitcase or package is found in the airport. If the owner hasn’t been identified after initial inquiries are made, and depending on where the item is located, we may use the dogs to see if there is anything potentially explosive inside.” The airport also uses other breeds: beagles are particularly good at detecting food products, while Labrador retrievers are excellent drug sniffers.
All dogs have a highly developed sense of smell and can detect the presence of various materials, but detection dogs must possess other qualities, as well. “The priorities are a good hunting instinct and a strong desire to play, but the dog must also be sociable with people and other animals. Thousands of people come through the airport every day. You can’t have an aggressive or nervous dog moving around in a crowd.
“We also look for dogs that are comfortable in all kinds of environments and on all kinds of surfaces. Some floors can be slippery, especially ceramic and terrazzo tile. I couldn’t work with a dog that’s afraid of slipping: he’d be too concerned about his own safety and couldn’t focus on the task at hand. Then there are the stairs we use to board planes, which are usually steep and made of perforated metal. A dog has to be OK on them, not to mention on elevators and in high places. The dogs we use at Montréal-Trudeau come from long lines of working dogs. It’s my job to evaluate all the candidates, and there are a lot of criteria involved. On average, only one dog in every three or four meets our standards.”
It’s good to know that security at Montréal-Trudeau is in such capable paws!
“Because it’s an island, Montreal attracts many species of birds, some of which can be a safety risk for aircraft and the airport. These are often waterfowl that travel in flocks, such as the Canada goose and mallard duck.”
The sky is full of hazards. There’s the weather kind, like snow, storms and wind, and then there’s the avian kind. To reduce the risk posed by birds on airport runways, Montréal-Trudeau employs the services of falconers and their feathered friends: three Harris’s hawks and one peregrine-gyrfalcon hybrid. “Dorval Airport began working with Falcon Environmental Services in 1992,” says Pierre Molina. “The airport was having a seagull problem and didn’t know what to do. So authorities called McGill University to find someone who could use birds of prey to scare away the gulls and other birds that were posing a real threat to the aircraft.”
Birds seem to flock to airports. “Because it’s an island, Montreal attracts many species of birds, some of which can be a safety risk for aircraft and the airport. These are often waterfowl that travel in flocks, such as the Canada goose and mallard duck. These birds feel safe on water, as well as near water, where many airports are found.”
Enter the falcons and hawks that prey on such birds. “We use Harris’s hawks; they’re native to the southern United States, not Canada, but they will breed in captivity. These are low-flying birds that stay close to the ground and hunt small perched birds and small mammals. We also use falcons, which fly at a higher altitude, to disperse the higher-flying birds.
“Our birds are like athletes. Every morning, we weigh them to see if they’re at their flying weight, meaning a weight that incites them to fly. If a bird weighs 680 g in the morning and has a flying weight of 650 g, it’s not going to be very motivated to fly, since it won’t be hungry.”
And how are these valiant birds rewarded? “To make sure they will always come back to us, we feed them quail or commercially bred chicks. Dead ones, of course. This is the kind of food they are used to. Like all wild animals, our birds seek simple solutions, i.e. the easiest and fastest ways to meet their immediate needs.” It’s a well-deserved meal for these hard-working and unusual airport employees!
A climate like ours is certainly a challenge for Aéroports de Montréal. Every year, some 10,000 airplanes have to be de-iced at Montréal-Trudeau, not to mention the 250 km of runways, roadways and manoeuvring areas that must be cleared after every snowstorm.
ADM handles the challenge so competently that it has become a world reference in the field. In fact, the airport’s snow-clearing expertise earned it first place in the “large commercial airports” category at the 2008 Balchen/Post Awards.
The de-icing centre at Montréal-Trudeau airport, which can handle 48 aircraft an hour, uses close to 6 million litres of de-icing fluid between October and April. As for snow-clearing, an average of 2.2 metres of snow a year must be removed from runways as quickly as possible. The gigantic snowblowers used by ADM can handle about 5,000 tonnes of snow an hour. It takes 25 minutes to clear a runway, which keeps air traffic moving and avoids delays.
At the de-icing centre, where services have been provided by Aéro Mag since 1997, concentrated ethylene glycol, diluted according to the ambient temperature, is sprayed over the planes. The fluid is recycled, with a concentration level of 99.5%. All the water used in the de-icing process is also filtered and reused. Montréal-Trudeau is the first airport in the world to recover the fluid at such a high concentration and reuse it as a certified aircraft de-icing product.
With its unique expertise, ADM has set the global standard in managing solutions related to winter conditions. It is about more than just efficient technology: Montréal-Trudeau has been able to take whatever the weather dishes out while minimizing both the environmental impact and the cost of snow-clearing and de-icing.
“Managing snow and ice is a colossal challenge for Montréal-Trudeau. The expertise we have acquired is
recognized around the world.”
– Donald Desrosiers
Maintaining runways and manoeuvring areas is a top concern for a northern airport like Montréal-Trudeau. About 50 to 60 times a winter, crews have to clear snow from some 250 km of runways, approximately the distance between Montreal and Quebec City. It’s a challenge they meet brilliantly, year after year, and it makes Airport Infrastructure Director Donald Desrosiers very proud. “Every year, we deal with an average of 220 cm of snow,” he explains. “We have to get creative!”
That creativity is expressed through the work of about 110 employees trained to meet the demand, using equipment specifically designed to carry snow efficiently. “Some of the snow is simply blown onto the surrounding fields. But when that’s not possible, it has to be transported to a depot. For that purpose, we have enormous trucks, built to measure according to our specifications. They can carry five times the load of a normal truck, which means we can get the snow cleared a lot more quickly using fewer people.”
It takes an average of 25 minutes to clear a runway. “The crew then goes on to the next one, but they have to go back and redo the first one. Keeping the runways clear and free of contaminants is a constant job. And we have to keep up with scheduled takeoffs and landings, which we manage to do most of the time.”
What’s a snow crew’s worst enemy? “Wet snow! That mix of snow and moisture is extremely difficult to remove, because it is so heavily compacted. And freezing rain, of course. When we have enough notice, we spray liquid potassium acetate on the runways, which keeps the ice from forming. We can’t use road salt, because corrosive products can damage the aircraft. It’s a very delicate operation.”
Aéroports de Montréal’s expertise in snow removal has been solicited and exported in dealings with other international airports that have similar winter weather, such as Beijing Airport, in China, and Heathrow, in London. “You could say we were born in the snow,” says Desrosiers. “We have an in-depth understanding of these weather conditions, plus we have the techniques and equipment to handle problems more quickly and at lower cost. For example, we schedule parking lot clearing according to flight schedules, so that our resources are always in the right place at the right time. Airports like Beijing and Heathrow receive less precipitation than we do; as a result, their teams are not used to handling the same kind of situations, even though they are well equipped. Any means that can improve performance is therefore of primary importance.”
So next time a snowstorm hits, take a moment to think of the crews at Montréal-Trudeau!
Some people pass through Montréal-Trudeau multiple times a year, or even a week. For them, the airport is an important part of life. Throughout its 75-year history, Montréal-Trudeau has always met the needs and expectations of air travellers. But in recent years, the landscape of the international and transborder zones has been transformed considerably, to the great delight of frequent flyers.
The airport now has a spa, a variety of restaurants and numerous shops. Works of art are on display in the public arrival areas as well as in the restricted zones. Showcases located in the international jetty offer Montreal museums an opportunity to present their missions, collections and exhibits.
Frequent flyers particularly enjoy the VIP services, such as the National Bank World MasterCard lounge, where people travelling to international destinations (except the U.S.) can relax in comfortable surroundings with complimentary drinks and snacks, all for a very reasonable fee.
Free Wi-Fi throughout the airport is appreciated by everyone looking to entertain themselves or do some work while waiting for a flight. Internet users also have access to a digital library of 35 books by Quebec writers. The first chapter of each book can be downloaded, allowing readers to decide whether they want to borrow the book from the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec portal or buy it at leslibraires.ca.
In short, Montréal-Trudeau is like a city within the city for those just passing through. People spend a few hours at a time there not just waiting for a plane but embarking on an adventure!
“Towards the end of my teens, I dated a guy from England who was passing through Quebec. When he left to go home, I cried so hard! I’m sure that the terrazzo tile at the airport is still stained with my tears.”
Denise Bombardier makes no bones about it: she loves to fly. “I hate travelling by train. It’s my default mode of transportation when I’m in Europe, but I really prefer flying. People sometimes ask if I find travel stressful. What I find stressful is not travelling. If it were just up to me, I would always be in transit!”
Denise Bombardier’s love affair with airplanes is nothing new. “My father worked at Air Canada, so we would often go to the airport, if only to watch the planes take off. Back then, family members of employees could even take occasional plane rides for $5! I was nine years old the first time I took a real trip. Air Canada gave us the tickets and we went to New York. I was so excited! That’s when I was bitten by the travel bug.”
Over the years, Bombardier has developed a taste for worry-free flying. “I travel business class only now. When I was young, since we were flying for free, there was always the chance at any moment that we’d have to give up our seats to paying customers. I never want that to happen again!”
She also associates Montréal-Trudeau with a powerful memory. “Towards the end of my teens, I dated a guy from England who was passing through Quebec. When he left to go home, I cried so hard! I’m sure that the terrazzo tile at the airport is still stained with my tears.”
Bombardier remains fascinated by the stories that unfold at the airport. “These days, you’re less likely to see people crying in the departure area. Back before the Internet, when people said good-bye, there was a chance they wouldn’t see each other again for years! Any time I see people shedding tears when they part, I get overwhelmed and start crying, too. I can’t help it. I’m just so sensitive to such situations. Parting can be heart-wrenching.”
Some stories, of course, are less serious. “One time, when there was work going on at the airport, we had to walk through a series of tunnels to get to the plane. Once on board, a man sat down next to me. We took off, and the flight attendant announced that we would be landing in Vancouver in just over five hours. The man said his wife would never believe him: he was supposed to be going to Halifax but had taken the wrong tunnel and ended up on my flight. That evening, I ran into him in the hallway of my hotel. As he had suspected, his wife did not believe him!”
Crying or laughing, Denise Bombardier always feels at home in the airport. “It’s crazy. An airport is a whole planet unto itself.”
For the people at Aéroports de Montréal, the future of the airport is a very practical issue. How will Montréal-Trudeau face the technological and environmental challenges that lie ahead, and how will it meet the infrastructure needs created by increased traffic? With vision and daring!
“From now until 2072, planes will continue to land and take off as they always have,” says James C. Cherry, President and CEO of ADM. “This presumes that we will maintain the runways we currently have.”
When it comes to strategic planning, airport administrations have to look very far ahead. ADM’s lease at Dorval expires in 2072, which makes that year the planning horizon for airport developments.
“We know that we will have to expand our facilities by then,” adds Mr. Cherry. “And since we can’t move the runways, we will have to work with the existing configuration. The solution may lie in a midfield terminal, located right next to the planes.” When the time comes, decisions will certainly have to be made. “Obviously, these are long-term projects,” says the CEO. “Meanwhile, our challenge is to make sure that whatever we build today is part of a long-term plan and will not hinder future development.”
Consulting with aircraft manufacturers to find out what the planes of the future will be like is another aspect of the planning process. “Seat occupancy rates are rising, and planes will likely get bigger, which means that the number of travellers passing through Montréal-Trudeau will continue to increase,” explains Mr. Cherry. “Since our runways are currently operating at only 50% capacity, and the number of flights is increasing more slowly than the number of passengers, growth will not be a problem. But the logistics surrounding all this passenger activity must constantly be reassessed.”
Future projects include rethinking passenger pick-up and drop-off areas to make getting in and out of the terminal faster and more efficient. “We have to grow capacity to keep up with increasing demand, and review the configuration of parking lots and other facilities on the city side,” says Mr. Cherry. “Then there’s the Metropolitan Electric Network, which will provide an environmentally sound link between the airport and Central Station, with service expected to begin in late 2020.”
The challenges are more than just structural. Technology is another matter receiving considerable attention. “Mobile technologies will continue to revolutionize the way people check in. Rather than anticipate an expansion of the check-in area, we are working to minimize it. Travellers could buy their tickets and head straight to security, then on to their departure gates.” Of course, the security checkpoints themselves are in the forecasters’ sights. “The industry is always on the lookout for technology-based solutions to speed up the process and make it less intrusive. Travel should be a simple, user-friendly experience.”
Then there’s baggage handling. “Why shouldn’t baggage be the responsibility of a specialized contractor dedicated solely to the task? Like a messenger service that would pick up your bags and deliver them directly to your hotel, thereby eliminating the wait at airport carousels. Such ideas are worth considering.”
Commercial services will also have to be adapted to traveller needs. “With fewer and fewer meals being served in-flight, we have increased the number of food and restaurant options in the airport. Similarly, when more and more travellers find themselves waiting for connecting flights, specific services should be made available to them, such as showers, nap pods and entertainment. People who have to spend three hours in an airport waiting for their next flight would find such services most welcome.”
Traveller profiles are changing, too, and demographic data must be taken into account. “The population is aging, and seniors are travelling more than they used to. We have to facilitate access with elevators, moving walkways and motorized wheelchairs. Our clientele is evolving and a growing number of travellers are using cutting edge technology. The airport must not just keep up, it should be anticipating the next step.”
This transformation has been under way for several years now, and Montréal-Trudeau’s response ensures that it will remain an airport in tune with traveller needs. “Montréal-Trudeau is looking towards a bright future, because we are taking care of it now,” concludes James C. Cherry.
“The first time I flew – I must have been 13 or 14 – it was a complete revelation. I felt so comfortable, I said to myself: This is where I belong. I’m so at home here!”
Julie Payette was born to fly. And her attachment to Montréal-Trudeau airport has a lot to do with her passion for flying. “I remember the day one of my uncles left for Europe. My family didn’t have a lot of money and we didn’t travel much. So you can imagine what a big deal that day was! I come from a very big family – lots of aunts, uncles and cousins – and we were all there, out on the big observation deck. Yes, back then, you could stand outside and watch the planes take off… It was a magnificent day. We waved to my uncle, who was leaving for a long time, and were overcome with emotion as we watched that huge plane take off. It really affected me and surely had something to do with my career choice.” Indeed, once she had witnessed that departure, all Julie could think of was taking off herself. “The first time I flew – I must have been 13 or 14 – it was such a revelation. I felt so comfortable! I said to myself: This is where I belong. I’m at home here.”
Determined to become a pilot, Julie had to contend with the powerful stereotypes of the time. People often advised her to give up her dream and become a flight attendant instead, since she loved planes so much. But she persevered, flying in the face of convention to become first a pilot and then an astronaut. During her missions on board the space shuttles Discovery, in 1999, and Endeavour, in 2009, she observed Earth from every angle, from a viewpoint most of us can only imagine. And yet… “People often ask me if flying in a plane has become ordinary and boring, now that I have travelled in space. But I will never get tired of flying,” she says. “Every flight is an adventure; it’s never ordinary. I always ask for a window seat. I want to feel the flight and enjoy the view. Travelling by plane is one of my great pleasures.”
And being at Montréal-Trudeau – which she calls “her” airport – adds to the enjoyment of the trip. “This airport has a unique quality. It’s a true gateway to Montreal. You really sense that you are arriving in a major French-speaking city; that’s what makes it so special. For me, the whole airport experience is part of the trip. And you feel so comfortable there, like you do in Montreal.”
Opening of Dorval airport on September 1
Launch of a transatlantic commercial flight by BOAC
Extension of Runways 10-28 and 06-24 (06L-24R)
Opening of a third runway (06R-24L)
Opening of a new terminal, at the time one of the world’s largest
Expansion of the international jetty for Expo 67
First commercial flights of the Boeing 747 by Air France
Transfer of international flights from Dorval to Mirabel
Decision by the Government of Canada to maintain domestic and transborder flights at Dorval
Modernization of the terminal and construction of a multi-level parking facility
Aéroports de Montréal assumes administration of Dorval and Mirabel airports
Start of work on the terminal and passenger drop-off zones
Commissioning of the new control tower
Return of scheduled international flights to Dorval
Opening of the new de-icing centre and new terminal facilities
Launch of a huge expansion and modernization program
Opening of the new transborder jetty and startup of the new thermal plant
The airport is renamed in honour of Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Opening of the new international arrivals complex
Transfer of charter flights from Mirabel to Dorval
Opening of the new international jetty
Modernization of the domestic sector and public arrivals halls
Opening of the new transborder departures sector and in-terminal Marriott Hotel
First commercial flights of the Airbus A380 by Air France
Start of work on the extension of the international jetty
Air China begins Montreal-Beijing service
Inauguration of the international jetty extension and announcement of the planned Metropolitan Electric Network, which will link the airport to Central Station
“The members of Les Veilleurs aéroportuaires are true aviation enthusiasts. We are proud to contribute to the safety and security of Montréal-Trudeau.”
Patrick Cardinal leads a double life. A computer scientist by profession, he is also president of Les Veilleurs aéroportuaires, known outside Quebec as Airport Watch. What exactly does the group do? “We gather on the perimeter of the airport to watch takeoffs and landings,” says Cardinal. “There are about 45 members at the moment. Some of us enjoy taking photos and videos, and on fine summer days, we are often joined by other aviation fans at Jacques-de-Lesseps Park.”
The park, which opened in 2012, is something of a gift from Aéroports de Montréal to the Airport Watch group and others who are passionate about planes. Named for the first pilot to fly over Montreal in 1910, Jacques-de-Lesseps Park offers an excellent view of the Montréal-Trudeau runways. “Before this park was created for us, we had to find public places where we could take pictures in the best light. Now we have a real gathering place. This park is a fine acknowledgement of our contribution.”
And that contribution is not insignificant. “The members of Les Veilleurs aéroportuaires are true aviation enthusiasts. We are proud to contribute to the safety and security of Montréal-Trudeau. We are in an excellent position to observe what’s going on around the airport perimeter, and any time we notice something unusual, we notify the authorities.”
Cardinal has been spending his free time watching the action at the airport for more than 20 years. For the last decade, he has also been expressing his passion through photography. “I even get work as an event photographer for Montréal-Trudeau. I love being able to combine my fascination with airplanes and my love of photography.”
After two decades of observation, Patrick Cardinal continues to marvel at some of the unusual aircraft that occasionally land at Montréal-Trudeau. “One fantastic annual event is the arrival of planes from Japan. Japanese tourists flock to Quebec in the fall to see the colourful landscape; these are charter flights we don’t normally see here. Basically, I’m impressed every time a jumbo jet arrives. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of watching planes.”