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Airport runway expansion: Should Porter be cleared for takeoff?

09/04/2013 07:25 EDT | Updated 11/04/2013 05:12 EST
A series of public consultations begin today on whether Porter Airlines will be allowed to fly jets from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and expand the island airport's runway to accommodate the new aircraft.

Last spring the airline asked the city to extend the runway into Lake Ontario by 168 meters at either end to accommodate the new C-series jets Porter plans to add to its fleet. The company currently flies Q400 turboprops from the island airport.

Then on Monday, the airline put forward a second proposal that would extend the runway by 200 metres at either end.

Interviewed on Metro Morning Wednesday, Porter CEO Robert Deluce said the extra distance would allow the planes to use less power when taking off, resulting in less noise.

“Our objective has always been to design the best possible runway to allow Torontonians to continue to enjoy the waterfront,” he told host Matt Galloway.

To extend the runway and get permission to fly jets from the airport, Porter will need to amend an existing tripartite agreement between the city, the federal government and the Toronto Port Authority.

As part of that process, the city will hold two public consultation “workshops” about the issue. The first meeting is set for this afternoon, the second is scheduled for Monday. The consultation process will continue with a town hall meeting on Sept. 12. A final public consultation meeting will be held in early November.

The city is also gathering feedback about the issue online.

If Porter is able to move forward with its plans, the airline says it will be able to expand service to new destinations in the United States and western Canada.

Groups opposed fear noise, environmental damage

A group of downtown residents are opposed to the expansion plans, citing concerns about noise and potential environmental damage to Lake Ontario.

Anshul Kapoor is with the group No Jets T.O. and says Porter's latest request comes too late.

“City staff has not had the time and due diligence to analyze this request,” said Kapoor. “Yet, they have to present it to the public at the public consultation and try and get their feedback."

Kapoor said flying jets in and out of the airport will further industrialize the waterfront, making it a less enjoyable place for residents.

Deluce, however, said the C-series jets, which are not yet in service, “are the quietest commercial jets in production.”

Galloway asked Deluce about rumours that Porter was rewarding people who support their proposal by entering them in a draw for free airline tickets.

“There’s never been any linkage between support that we receive and the occasional giveaway that we have,” Deluce said.

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