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5 things you (probably) didn't know about Vancouver International Airport

From animal employees to runways lit by neighbours cars, it's got a few quirks now and in the past.
Clockwise from top left: A plane taking off from Vancouver International Airport, Vancouver's airport in 1940, Pilot the dog, characters from FInal Destination at YVR.

The Vancouver International Airport is one of the biggest in Canada.

It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that it's the second busiest (by passengers) in the country, or that it has a massive air cargo side, or that along with commercial jets there are also helicopters and seaplanes that take off from Richmond's Sea Island.

It's a major hub for B.C. and the Pacific region, with flights under 20 minutes to Nanaimo Harbour while the longest are around 17 hours (like to Melbourne, Australia).

Those are all fairly obvious. The following aren't.

1. Car owners would show up to guide planes in 

Before runway lights existed (in 1938) it was up to locals to help guide planes in in the dark.

"Car owners would respond to radio appeals from the airport and light the runways with their headlights to help aircraft land in the dark," reads a sign at the Larry Berg Flight Path Park.

2. You used to be able to buy insurance at vending machines at the airport

For a while $0.25 you could get insurance, at YVR at a vending machine.

The insurance would cover a variety of violent mishaps that could occur in a plane crash, including loss of limb and death.

To be fair, it wasn't just at the Vancouver airport, the machines were common across North America.

The practice faded though due to insurance scams. In one case, in the USA, a man was executed for mass murder when he tried to commit life insurance fraud using the machines; he blew up a plane and killed 44 people when he gave his mom a bomb wrapped as a Christmas gift.

3. Films like the Lizzie McGuire Movie, Snow Dogs and Final Destination were all shot at YVR

Vancouver plays the role of lots of city in film and TV shows, so it makes sense those productions might use YVR when in town.

At least 34 different shows or movies have used the airport, and it's a good bet none of them were using YVR to portray YVR.

4. It was built after Charles Lindbergh said something rude

In the late 1920s, after being invited to Vancouver, Charles Lindbergh said no, since Vancouver had "no fit field to land on."

That statement, by one of the world's most famous people (some aviators were big celebrities 90 years ago), helped drive the creation of Vancouver's airport, which opened with a wooden building and one runway in July 1931 (it officially became Vancouver International Airport in 1947).

"Well, we’ve been taking great pride in proving him wrong ever since," said the airport's CEO in 2018.

5. There are several animal employees

While thousands upon thousands of humans work at the airport, there are a couple of other species that work for the airport as well.

Pilot the dog is one; he works on the airfield to help chase away animals, specifically birds that might cause issues for aircraft. There's also a team of raptors that are part of the falconry team to chase away birds, as well.

There are also therapy dogs that stop by to help passengers with stress.