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Jets at the Island Airport

On April 10, 2013 Porter Airlines held a press conference to announce that they want to bring jets to the Island Airport, increase the number of take-offs and landings and extend the runways. This is what we know about the proposal.

Porter has made a conditional offer to buy 12 Bombardier CS100 Series jets with an option for another 18. The deal is conditional on Porter getting permission to use the jets at the Island Airport (the Billy Bishop City Centre Airport).

In order to get permission, Porter is requesting the amendment of the Tripartite Agreement that governs the Island Airport. That means the federal government, the Toronto Port Authority and the City of Toronto will all have to agree to allow the jets and other conditions. 

In the past the federal government and Port Authority have agreed to anything Porter has asked for. The big debate, and ultimately the decision, will be made by Toronto City Council. There are three amendments to the Tripartite Agreement that Porter needs for the expansion.

  • Permission to fly jets out of the airport.
  • The east-west runway will have to be lengthened 168 metres at each end of the runway to allow the jets to land and take-off safely. That is 551 feet, almost the length of two football fields, expanding out into the water at each end of the runway. This will be a dramatic expansion of the physical size of the airport. It will take up much of the harbour in the west end and extend well out into Humber Bay. The keep-away buoys will also have to be moved out further. All of this will restrict sailing in the harbour and Lake Ontario.
  • Porter will also be asking for more slots at the Island Airport. That means more take-offs and landings and more passengers. That in turn will lead to more traffic and congestion for the people in Bathurst Quay Neighbourhood and more noise and pollution for the Waterfront and the city.

That’s what we know, but the controversy has just begun. Robert Deluce, the CEO of Porter, says that the CSeries jets are quiet, but he does not say they are quieter than the Q400, the plane Porter currently flies out of the Island. The noise from the Q400 is already a problem for many who live along the Waterfront, and it is unbearable for many of the residents of Bathurst Quay. Pollution and safety are additional concerns. Jets will not be quieter than the Q400 and could well be much worse.

Allowing jets at the Island Airport will mean not only the CSeries jets, but all makes and types of jets will be allowed. That means loud executive jets, big commercial passenger jets—jets of ever type of make will be allowed to take-off and land at the Island.

Robert Deluce, the CEO of Porter, has failed to make a good business case for the expansion. Both the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star business journalists have said that Porter’s expansion will pit them in competition against Air Canada and West Jet who are established airlines with very deep pockets. Porter will have a very difficult time making a success of this venture. There are continuing rumours that the company is losing money. Their passenger loads have decreased in the last five months from the previous period. This may well be Porter’s last ditch chance to make a success of their airline.

Deluce is saying that Porter and the Island Airport is a major economic benefit for the City of Toronto. Others argue that Porter could relocate to Pearson, where there is still plenty of capacity, and there will be no loss to the city or the public. Still others argue that there will be no need for the Island Airport once the fixed link between Union Station and Pearson Airport is completed in 2015.

Those of us in CommunityAIR don’t know what is going on in the board rooms and back rooms, but this we do know. If Porter’s proposed amendments are passed by Toronto City Council we will see a quantum leap in the size and operations of the Island Airport. There will be jets, the runways will be lengthened by filling the harbour and lake, the number of flights will increase dramatically and the traffic, pollution and everything else that a major airport brings will literally be on the city’s doorstep.

Toronto City Council is divided on the expansion of the Island Airport. Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug have signaled they support Porter. Adam Vaughan, Pam McConnell and many other councillors have said they are opposed. At this stage it is not clear which side will win the vote in council.

This is the crucial moment for the Island Airport. If the amendments of the Tripartite Agreement are approved, and the airport is expanded allowing jets, it will lead to a significant deterioration of the Waterfront and ultimately will harm the quality of life of all people in Toronto. But if the vote is defeated then there is a very good chance that the airport will simply wither away because it is unprofitable.

Porter flight path

This is the time to mobilize opposition to the expansion of the Island Airport. If you care about Lake Ontario, Toronto Harbour, the Islands, the Waterfront and the city, now is the time to convince your family, friends, workmates, neighbours and particularly your local politician that the expansion will cause irreparable harm to all we love about Toronto.

This website reviews the issues and background of the controversies surrounding the Island Airport, the Toronto Port Authority and Porter Airlines. For news updates and comment please follow our blog at http://blog.communityair.org/


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