Plans to fly Q400 turboprops out of the Island Airport have CommunityAIR warning of disaster. Not only is this jet-like plane likely to have trouble navigating the obstacle-course shoreline, but it's also too large for the airport's runways. Why, then, is the Toronto Port Authority going full throttle, expanding its ferry terminal to welcome more passengers?
PORT AUTHORITY'S GRAND PLAN
• Lift the money-losing Toronto City Centre Airport out of its financial doldrums by flying Q400 turboprops offering regional service (courtesy of Robert Deluce's REGCO Holdings Inc.) to Canada and the U.S.
• The group says the 70-seat Q400s are too big to take off from or land on the airport's runways. The longest runway is 1,212 metres (the other two 909 metres), and the Q400 requires 1,402 metres to take off and 1,287 metres to land, according to manufacturer Bombardier's own figures.
• Some airports in the U.S. require landing distances of at least 1,828 metres for the Q400.
WHAT REGCO SAYS
• Pshaw. The runway requirements CommunityAIR is quoting are for Q400s flying at maximum weight. They won't be flying the kind of distances that require a full fuel load.
• Less reassuring have been quotes attributed to REGCO execs that planes will fly at less than passenger capacity if safety is an issue.
THE $500 MILLION QUESTION
• To paraphrase one Authority spokesperson, "Why would REGCO invest half a billion dollars in planes that are too big to land at the Island Airport?"
• The Authority denies it has plans to extend the runways (which it can't legally do anyway). But airport expansion plans are already underway, including the building of a new passenger terminal that will be able to handle 600,000 passengers a year, 500,000 more than currently use the airport.
• REGCO officials, according to CommunityAIR, have floated the idea of incorporating safety zones at the end of the landing strips (they're supposed to be used in case of emergencies or aborted takeoffs) into the existing runways.
THE RUNWAY PROBLEM
• Even with the stopways, critics says the runways would still be metres short of the standard required by Transport Canada.
CommunityAIR's LEGAL CHALLENGE
• CommunityAIR is taking the Authority to court, claiming in a judicial review application filed earlier this month that its terminal plans represent an expansion that most Torontonians don't want.
• CommunityAIR also charges that the proposed use of the Q400s is a violation of the tripartite agreement governing the Island Airport. It states that only aircraft that can take off and land at a 6-degree incline can be used in commercial service at TCCA.
• Evidence of how dangerous piloting planes into the Island Airport can be is found on the Port Authority's own website, which lists a host of areas for pilots to avoid on takeoff and approach. These include trees on the southern approach, high-masted ships in the harbour, a 113-metre flagpole, a 290-metre industrial stack on the eastern approach and the wind turbine at the CNE - not to mention the condos springing up like mushrooms all along the waterfront.
ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN
• Besides the early-morning lake fog, crosswinds also make the TCCA tricky to navigate. CommunityAIR points out that crosswinds of 60 km/h will prevent the Q400 from landing on any of the airport's runways.
• The Island Airport has limited fire, rescue and medical services for dealing with a crash. Equipment would have to be ferried over from the mainland.
THIS PLANE FOR THE BIRDS • The Island Airport is smack in the middle of a major migratory bird route, great news for birders, but not for pilots of Dash 8s (the Q400 is a Dash 8 aircraft) which happen to be the type of plane most frequently involved in bird strikes.