Aerodromes in Canada may or may not have a control tower, whose occupants issue clearances and instructions to improve the safety and efficiency of movement in the vicinity of the airport. The controllers are also usually good for a cup of coffee if you're stuck at an airport with no open restaurants.
Think for a moment about the size of the CFS. It's about four centimetres thick, filled with lightweight newsprint pages, often two or three aerodromes to a page. That's a lot of aerodromes. How many do you think have control towers?
The answer is in this link.
I have to admit that I thought there were many more. I guess if I'd then tried to list them, I would have concluded that there weren't that many, but I hadn't realized the true size of the ratio of uncontrolled to controlled facilities in Canada. It goes to show how freely air traffic moves here. Aerodromes without control towers, are called "uncontrolled," but movements there are controlled by rules and procedures dictating how pilots approach and leave the airport, select a runway, and communicate with one another. Pilots coordinate their movements over the radio, and don't swear at each other nearly as much as car drivers would, equipped with the same technology. Americans have taken to calling such airports "non-towered" to emphasize the fact that they are not uncontrolled free-for-alls. There are a number of airports in Canada that have control towers but are uncontrolled, because the control tower has been closed.
And the airplanes in the sample conversations with air traffic services on that site are real airplanes, and I've flown one of them.
That's about twice as many towers as I guessed before I clicked on the link. You're right that traffic flows a bit more freely, but another important factor is the way that we use on-field FSS at MF airports, where the Americans would have a small tower instead.
Thompson used to have a tower until the mid-90's I think. Now, Thompson FSS mans the tower and provides Aerodrome Advisory Service. It never ceases to amaze me how many aircraft and tasks these folks can handle. They can be on the phone with center, requesting an IFR clearence, have 5 aircraft call in, get the clearence off to the IFR aircraft, and still remember the call signs to all the aircraft that called in while they were on the phone. Very professional. The folks @ Thompson FSS do an excellent job keeping the traffic flowing.
I got a good laugh out of the comment you made about people driving cars. It is kind of funny how, in my experience, pilots are more then willing to slow it down or detour out of the way a bit to let other traffic in and give them more room. People behind the wheel of a car seem like they could care less about anybody else on the road and would cut another car off if it would mean they would get to their destination two seconds quicker.
arg... I feel some road rage coming on...
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