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1. The runway extension being proposed would have to be longer than advertised.
Island airport boosters laughed when opponent Adam Vaughan declared that lengthening the main runway by 168 metres on each end amounts to paving the lake. For a little perspective: that's roughly the length of four football fields. But that's only the half of it. As we speak, Transport Canada is considering changing its "runway end safety area" regs, which would require extending the runway further into the lake, probably by a few hundred more feet.
It doesn't end there, unfortunately. The second runway at Billy Bishop, the one that runs north-south and is used when wind conditions are tricky, would presumably have to be extended, too, in case the main runway became non-operational, for emergencies or other reasons. That would mean cutting into the parkland behind Hanlan's Point beach.
2. Island Airport expansion raises safety issues.
Lengthening the runway on the harbour side would bring it perilously close to the marine boundary that keeps boats and planes out of each other's way. CommunityAIR's Brian Iler says that means the main runway would probably have to be extended entirely on its western end, which would mean out toward Ontario Place, cutting off the Western Gap. Crazy? That's what they said about jets at the airport, remember?
3. Porter hasn't made the business case.
A splashy announcement is one thing, but Porter has yet to show us the money. The company has been growing, adding to its fleet and expanding to more U.S. destinations. But how can Porter afford to drop $1 billion on shiny new Bombardier CS100 jets when passenger load numbers show the airline is (maybe) breaking even? Hint: loan guarantees from the feds; the airline industry is one of the most heavily subsidized. Which prompts the question: why should taxpayer dollars prop up more fossil-fuel-burning transportation - especially when billions are being spent on an Air Rail Link to Pearson?
4. We can't be sure this isn't just another of Robert Deluce's ploys to save his ass.
Word on the street is that the Porter president's financial backers are getting antsy about seeing a profit. And that Deluce is trying to expand more from necessity (i.e., economic survival) than by design - to create buzz to entice new investors with more pie in the sky. He may have sold the town's biggest newspaper, the Star, on his plan's pluses for the economy. But what about all the development, and the jobs that go with it, that would be snuffed out by the industrialization of the western waterfront?
5. The jobs, jobs, jobs being promised are mostly overseas.
The CS100's fuselage is built in China, the wings at Bombardier's operation in Belfast, Ireland. The planes will be assembled in Quebec. As for Ontario's participation in their manufacture, that's relegated to a few components. Zero for Bombardier's Downsview operation, which is where Porter's turboprop fleet is built.
6. Did we mention that it would kill the waterfront?
Porter's competitors are already clamouring to get more of the Billy Bishop action. Air Canada, back on the island after years of legal wrangling, already occupies 30 of the 202 takeoff and landing slots. WestJet, meanwhile, has its own grand design, saying it can land its 737s there, carrying lighter passenger loads, if the runway is extended. Whoa.
7. There's no hard data to support Porter's claim that the CS100 jets are "whisper quiet... eco-planes."
Manufacturer Bombardier is more careful about the language it uses to describe the CS100's green cred. It says noise levels are "comparable" to the Q400 - which are just over the noise requirements of the tripartite agreement (between the city, the federal Ministry of Transportation and the Toronto Port Authority) anyway. The claim has also been made that the CS100's carbon footprint is better than other jets in its class. Only there's no way of verifying these assertions. The CS100 is still in development and has yet to undergo a flight test. Noise and emissions info being presented as factual is in fact guesstimates. To quote the fine print in Bombardier's literature: "All specifications and data are approximate, may change without notice and are subject to certain operating rules, assumptions and other conditions."
8. More flights mean more noise and more pollution.
While the focus has been on the CS100, what about the carbon footprint of all the other jets that would be able to land if the runway is extended? Not to mention the traffic mess already making locals gasp from smog at the foot of Bathurst. Is the plan to turn nearby Little Norway Park into a parking lot? Don't look now, but last time we checked, the TPA owned a 30-metre-wide swath through that park.
9. As for good corporate citizenship, Deluce needs improvement.
There's no other way to put it. Porter has shown little regard for its workers - or anyone else who gets in the way of its plans. Refuellers have been on strike since January. The company's 250 pilots are trying to form a union. Porter is currently the subject of a lawsuit by the Toronto Island Pilots Association, which alleges its members were forcibly evicted by the airline - their rents jacked by 300 per cent and their leases quashed - to make room for commercial expansion. General aviation makes up about 50 per cent of the traffic at Billy Bishop, compared to more than 70 per cent in the 1970s.
10. There's still hope of turning the airport into green space.
No, really. The airport is still designated as parkland in the city's Official Plan. In fact, the airport lease runs out in 2033. The Port Authority's Mark McQueen must be getting nervous about that possibility. He recently wrote the mayor asking for a 50-year extension of the airport's lease, to 2083. Just coincidence?
Bombardier CS100 by the numbers
1,463 metres Required field length for takeoff when loaded
1,356 metres Required field length for landing when loaded
1,216 metres Length of main runway at Billy Bishop
336 metres Extension Porter Airlines proposes for the main runway, which would make it 1,552 metres long
211 metres Additional runway that would be needed to meet the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's runway safety area recommendation