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Looking for flexibility in flight paths

A number of Don Valley West residents, especially from North Leaside and Lawrence Park, have expressed concern about the increased volume of air traffic over their homes, specifically of aircraft preparing to land at Pearson.  I am sympathetic to these concerns and recognise that the increased traffic has negatively impacted the quality of life of some residents who, for example, no longer enjoy a quiet back yard all the time.

In response, I convened a meeting on Oct. 9 with these residents to which I also invited representatives from the Greater Toronto Airport Authority and from NavCanada.  NavCanada is the private sector, non-share capital corporation that runs Canada’s civil air navigation system and has had responsibility since the 1990s for co-ordinating safe and efficient aircraft movement in Canadian airspace.

I am pleased that my provincial colleague, Kathleen Wynne, MPP, and Ward 26 Councillor John Parker were also able to attend.  Ward 25 Councillor Jaye Robinson had planned to attend but was required to attend another meeting at Toronto City Hall.

The purpose of the meeting was both to gain a better understanding of why the volume of air traffic has increased and to determine what, if anything, can be done about it.

We learned that all major airports around the world, and air traffic control at these airports, are governed by a set of codified operating procedures determined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN body.

These world-wide standards, analogous to municipal building codes, are intended to achieve maximum safety and efficiency and are updated periodically to reflect revised best practices and improved technology.

The implementation of these standards at any specific airport such as Pearson takes into account local circumstances like proximity to other airports, topography and prevailing wind direction.

In 2012 flight paths of planes arriving at Pearson were adjusted to reflect the latest revisions to ICAO standards, including a world-wide switch from beacon-based navigation to on-board, GPS-based navigation.

This has led to an increased concentration of arrival flights along a line that passes in a north-easterly direction over North Leaside before making a turn to the left for an approach to Pearson in a south-westerly direction, into the wind.  These ICAO rules have been translated into GPS information and instructions that are now part of the on-board computer system of aircraft from all the major airlines that fly to Pearson.

Changes to arrival and departure flight paths are therefore neither arbitrary nor discretionary but rather result directly from changes to ICAO standards as applied to the unique circumstances in Toronto.

It was clear from our meeting that any relief for the homeowners of North Leaside who are most directly impacted by these changes will not come easily or quickly.  The obstacles to finding a workable solution are going to be large.

Nevertheless I was pleased by the constructive tone of the meeting both on the part of the residents and of the representatives from NavCanada.

I was also pleased that the representatives from NavCanada agreed to investigate and report back to me on whether there might be any flexibility at all in the implementation of the ICAO standards that could potentially bring some measure of relief to the effected residents.

I do not want to raise false hope.  But I do want to assure you that I am committed to keeping the lines of communication open between those residents who are expressing a genuine and understandable frustration with a changed circumstance over which they had no control, and those officials whose responsibility it is to ensure safe and efficient air travel for Canadians. n

‘We won’t sit back and take it’

Paul Malozewski, spokes-man for the residents who met with MP John Carmichael Oct. 9 sent a press release, excepts from which are below:

Leaside residents made clear their expectations leading up to Oct. 9 that this meeting was expected to be all about solutions.

The residents groups clarified that presentations by NavCan and GTAA were not necessary, as we all understood the problem and wished to spend the short meeting time working on solutions.

As it turned out, a short presentation by NavCan did proceed and proved instructive, as not everyone was fully aware of the egregious extent of the air traffic noise problem.

Not only was a major approach path rerouted over the heads of Leaside residents, the path was also made very concentrated forcing a large volume of air traffic into a very narrow corridor. One resident commented that she counted 35 flights in 25 minutes over her community in South Leaside.

Other Leaside residents confirmed this statistic as being a common occurrence since February 2012.  Unless dealt with, this intolerable problem is only going to get worse.

 The complete lack of active community stakeholdering quickly emerged as a point of contention.  Mr. Carmichael and Mr. Parker were surprised that such a significant change in air traffic routing could have been undertaken by NavCan without active stakeholdering with the affected communities.

Mr. Carmichael in particular noted his surprise that no mention was made of this Feb. 2012 routing change during his meeting with NavCan / GTAA a few months prior during the summer of 2011; by that time, the three-year air space study by NavCan was nearing completion.

 The Leaside residents group actively shaped the meeting towards developing solutions, presenting several options for discussion.  In doing so, Leaside made clear several important points.

We support the economic development of the city; Toronto is one of the great cities of the world and we want it to be better.

Second, economic progress must not be at the expense of a livable city.

Third, the issue of air traffic noise is something that all other major cities of the world struggle with.

Fourth, this problem is a four-dimensional jig-saw puzzle; there is always more than one solution and if more than one solution is not occurring to us, it’s because we have not thought hard enough, or because some don’t want to find another solution for whatever political reasons.

Several participants jumped to a conclusion that nothing can be done, that Leaside and other neighborhoods now affected by the noise are stuck with it; however, this appears to have been motivated by them not wanting their other constituents to be impacted by some of the solutions being discussed or not wanting the problem put back into their backyards.

 The solutions proposed by affected residents included routing air traffic east along the lake shore or through downtown areas towards the Don Valley, then north to the 401 and then west to the airport.  The objective of these solutions was to minimize the number of residential areas traversed by aircraft.

NavCan highlighted some of the challenges with the proposed solutions.  However, Leaside residents reiterated that there must be multiple solutions.

It’s clear that air traffic noise cannot be totally eliminated in a modern city; however, noise should be minimized by such means as minimizing the number of residential areas traversed by air traffic.

The resident’s challenged NavCan to come up with better solutions and to ensure that from now on the residential areas and their political representatives are consulted in the process.

NavCan has taken the representations from the meeting under advisement and will circle back with Mr. Carmichael.

 It is clear to all the residents affected by this intolerable noise issue that this is the first step in a larger fight, a fight to protect our rights to enjoy the peace of our communities we have worked so long and so hard to build.

We did not buy into our neighbourhoods with this noise issue preexisting.  We were not con-
sulted.  This was simply done to us and we won’t sit back quietly and take it.

We invited Mr. Carmichael and others to take a leadership position in this matter.  Mr. Carmichael and Mr. Parker rose to the challenge.  We look forward to working with them and our other elected representatives in the coming weeks and months.

We also look forward to receiving responses from Mr. Carmichael’s office to a number of important questions and requests for information.

In the meantime, all residents can and should make their voices heard.

Mr. Carmichael confirmed that he needs to hear from more residents in his riding on this matter.

You can find this contact information on his website http://www.johncarmichael.ca:

Toronto office: 18 Wynford Dr., Suite 704, Toronto M3C 3S2. (416) 467-7275. Fax: (416) 467-8550. Email John Carmichael

Other MPs also need to hear from their constituents.

There is a simple on-line petition that is gaining momentum:

http://www.petitiononlinecanada.com/petition/nav-canada-airspace-redesign-over-central-toronto-noisy-result/1273

Take a few seconds and sign the petition.

The Leaside residents’ group will be meeting shortly to plan out its next steps.

Together, we can achieve economic prosperity and livable communities.