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Canada’s business aviation community has mounted an all-out campaign to protest a plan that will limit its access to Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) as of March 26.
On March 7, Craig Bradbrook, vice-president of aviation services for the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA), released a directive that deals business and general aviation operators a double whammy: not only will they have to book YYZ arrival and departure slots on a first-come-first-served basis 48 hours in advance, but they will also be prohibited from arriving at the airport between 15:00 and 19:59 during the upcoming rehabilitation of YYZ’s longest runway.
“As a result of the continued and forecasted growth in aviation operations . . . it is necessary to reinstitute the Airport Reservation Office (ARO) for all General and Business Aviation Operators (GB/BA),” Bradbrook wrote in the directive. “In addition, during the 05/23 runway rehabilitation project this year, further restrictions will need to be enforced on arriving GA/BA flights during specified periods.”
General and business aviation use of 05/23 will be limited from March 28 to May 16 and from Oct. 10 to Nov. 3, and possibly longer if the maintenance and repairs are extended. Situated on the north side of YYZ, 05/23 is the longest of the airport’s three east-west runways at 11,120 feet (3,389 metres), with a landing distance of 10,985 feet (3,348 metres). Two others run north-south.
Bradbrook said that reinstituting the ARO means operators must book arrival and departure slots 48 hours ahead of time and that “all aircraft will be monitored for compliance.” As for 05/23 access, he is prepared to limit slot assignments “within other timeframes where runway capacity is unavailable.” The limits don’t apply to medevac, police, military or helicopter operations, or to sports charters and visiting heads of state.
To protest the directive, the Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA) has initiated a letter-writing campaign targeting Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) president and CEO Howard Eng, GTAA chairman David Wilson, senior Transport Canada officials and Members of Parliament.
“GTAA has overstepped and is unfairly punishing our operators,” said CBAA president Rudy Toering. “As a priority, we are working to have GTAA roll back the ban on arrivals and then deal with the separate issues of the slots.”
He told Skies on March 22 that limiting the use of 05/23 can create problems for operators when the weather is poor. “We’re all having a bit of trouble understanding why, with so many runways, there can’t be some better protocols other than just cutting out a complete segment of aviation.”
Toering added that everyone appreciates the need for runway upgrades, but it could be done in sections. “I’ve talked to other Ontario airport managers who said they do this all the time; they have a certain amount of work being done and 6,000 feet of the runway is still active. For us, those 6,000 feet mean a hell of a lot more than maybe they do for airlines; they need more runway to land [but] we don’t for most of our aircraft.”
The CBAA president is particularly annoyed by the GTAA’s presentation of the plan as a done deal at a March 15 meeting, which also involved several major operators.
“There was no consultation with us whatsoever,” he said. “I’m still of the opinion, and I said so at the meeting, that if we had been part of this process and we knew what the issues were, we could have gotten together as a group and probably come up with some better ideas than shutting us out.”
Asked whether airports in Hamilton, Waterloo or even Peterborough might be an option, he replied that YYZ is “not in the same position” as Teterboro, N.J., and New York City.
“The driving distance is much shorter there. We really don’t have a choice of a business aviation airport right next to [Toronto]. Our members and owners are very, very concerned. It’s a business tool that they rely on and all of a sudden that’s taken away.”
Part of the GTAA argument is that YYZ is increasingly busy. It had 456,536 aircraft movements in 2016, up 2.8 per cent from 2015, in a pattern of continued growth. More than 75 airlines operate some 1,100 departures daily to more than 180 global destinations. Toering did not have business aviation statistics for YYZ alone, but said his members account for 18 per cent of movements nationally.
“They haven’t given some good thought as to how it’s going to impact our business. We’re a $10.7 billion business in Canada and that’s not something where you take decisions and you put presidents and CEOs of those companies in a position where they’re scrambling.”
Toering also pointed out that there would be an impact on fixed-base operators at YYZ.
One of those operators is Chartright Air Group. “We had been notified March 2 and then the directive was issued March 7,” the company’s manager of flight operations, Graham Nicholls, told Skies on March 21. “There was a teleconference March 6 . . . but it was fairly brief, 10 to 15 minutes, perhaps.”
He said few details were disclosed pending the GTAA directive the next day. “We were all caught a little off guard by the short notice, especially given the gravity of the situation. So I do feel it was rather short notice. It leaves some of us in a bit of a difficult situation when we have flights already planned for these periods, particularly the arrivals ‘blackout period,’ as I like to call it.”
Chartright can have anywhere from five to 10 Toronto departures and arrivals on any given day. Nicholls said a good number of them, perhaps more than 40 per cent, do fall within the 15:00 to 17:59 window. “So it does present a challenge.”
He agreed that alternative outlying airports were “still fairly remote when you’re talking about individuals for whom the whole reason they have an aircraft like this is to essentially be free of a schedule. Then they are kind of forced into a situation where they are subject to an additional hour-plus in a car to get to their final destination. It can be a real hindrance.”
While turboprops can operate from the downtown Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, Nicholls pointed out that the facility’s strict ‘no jets’ policy prohibits many business aircraft.
He said customer feedback so far has been mixed. “Some individuals are obviously quite upset,” he replied. “A lot of the response comes down to how much of an impact our clients foresee it having on them. Some who fly more frequently, they’re going to be the most impacted, so we understand that they’re going to be the loudest voice.”
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