Island jets pitch may not fly says CommunityAIR

Brian Iler—

In a letter dated May 5 addressed to Toronto MP Andrew Cash, Toronto Port Authority Board Chair Mark McQueen states:


De-icing fluids present a controversial issue.

“For 30 years, the TPA (and its predecessors) has operated the BBTCA (Billy Bishop airport)  under the aforementioned Tripartite Agreement. If terms within this agreement are to change, all parties must agree to that change; the fact that Porter Airlines proposed the introduction of commercial jet service at the airport is well understood. It is unclear how that private sector proposal, which may never again see the light of day on the floor of a future Toronto City Council, gives the current Council the right (legal or moral) to immediately and unilaterally impose caps on our airport’s Bombardier Q400 (ie. propeller-only) passengers. Indeed, such action would be a violation of the Tripartite Agreement as executed by the City of Toronto.”

Of course, the City has done nothing of the sort.

It has simply said that before proceeding to consider Porter’s jets proposal, the current traffic mess created by the Island Airport needs to be addressed, in part by a hard cap on annual passenger levels of 2.4 million.

Council, on April 1, made it clear that both the TPA and Transport Canada must commit to that hard cap.

The TPA has refused. There has been no public response from Transport Canada

If either the TPA or Transport Canada do not agree to that cap, then Porter’s jets proposal is clearly dead.

Perhaps that’s what Mr. McQueen means when he suggests Porter’s proposal “may never again see the light of day on the floor of a future Toronto City Council”.

Cash had sought answers last week from Transport Minister Lisa Raitt on why the Toronto Port Authority is ignoring the unanimous decision of Toronto City Council.

This is the text of Cash’s question, and Raitt’s reply:

Mr. Andrew Cash (Davenport, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the Toronto Port Authority was set up by the Liberals against the wishes of the City of Toronto. Until 2001, the airport belonged to the city. Then the Liberals created an unelected, unaccountable port authority, taking control of the airport out of Toronto’s hands and into Ottawa’s.

Now this unelected body thinks it is above the law and can cherry-pick which decisions of council to respect. Will the government tell the Toronto Port Authority it must respect the democratic decisions of Toronto City Council?

Hon. Lisa Raitt (Minister of Transport, CPC)

Hon. Lisa Raitt (Minister of Transport, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Toronto Port Authority is an independent organization which has many agreements with the City of Toronto to which it is held accountable and has to be able to fulfill too.

It is very important that port authorities and airport authorities have good communications with their local communities. I encourage them to sit down and talk with their local council members, and as well to talk to their council in general about how to better further economic development through the use of port assets.

In his letter to Cash, Mr. McQueen also states this:

The TPA is compliant with all laws, regulations and obligations within the Tripartite Agreement.

He’s wrong.

The TPA has consistently ignored these requirements under that agreement:

o       The Tripartite Agreement restricts the TPA’s use of the Airport to “general aviation and limited commercial STOL service operations”.

“General aviation” is defined  to consist of:

all civil aviation activities, other than a limited commercial STOL service, undertaken …. in the operation of civil, state and private (personal and business) aircraft; [and] the operation of … the de Havilland Dash 8 aircraft.

Transport Canada confirms that the Q400, flown out of the Island airport by Porter and Air Canada,  is not STOL.

Both the TPA  and Transport Canada  take the position that, as the Q400 is classified “aeronautically” as part of the Dash-8 family of aircraft, and is therefore a Dash-8 for the purposes of the Tripartite Agreement.

However, when the Dash 8 was added to the Tripartite Agreement as a permitted aircraft (for “general aviation” purposes) in 1985, the only Dash 8 plane that could have been in the contemplation of the parties was the Series 100/200 – a 37 to 40passenger plane – about half the capacity, and about 60% of the weight of the Q400 , which was developed in the 1990s, and has very different performance characteristics .

The understanding of the parties at the time as to what they considered to be a Dash-8 is determinative, in law. The fact that the aircraft industry, and Transport Canada, consider the Q400 a derivative of the earlier Dash-8 models (and therefore within the family of Dash-8s) is strictly an administrative qualification and quite irrelevant to the correct interpretation of the Tripartite Agreement.

o       The prohibition on aircraft generating excessive noise.

A February 2009 PowerPoint presentation by the TPA to a now defunct community advisory committee meeting admits that the Q400 (technically the Q402, flown by Porter and Air Canada) offends the Tripartite Agreement’s definition of aircraft generating excessive noise on two of the three limits. Breach of any one prohibits the aircraft.

Here’s page 26 from that PowerPoint:


The TPA claims it can “trade off” one breach with another’s compliance, borrowing from one parameter that is not breached to address a breach of another.

The “trade off” concept does exist – but only to enable aircraft to meet the maximum noise levels fixed by the ICAO.

The concept of “trade off” does not appear in the Tripartite Agreement.

The limits are the limits, and each stands alone.

o       The medevac exception from curfew and jet restrictions

The Tripartite Agreement establishes very strict rules for flights during curfew hours:

The Lessee (i.e. the Toronto Port Authority) acknowledges and agrees that all flights into and out of the Toronto City Centre Airport shall operate between the hours of 6:45 a.m. and 11 :00 p.m., with the exception of medical evacuations and other emergency uses.

And jets may only be used for true emergencies:

The Lessee shall not permit jet-powered aircraft to operate to and from the Toronto City Centre Airport with the exception of medical evacuations and other emergency use…

It is clear from this that only true emergency flights are permitted during curfew, and jets may use the airport only if a true emergency is present.

That excludes patients who are stable and are simply being transferred.

And it excludes aircraft returning to base after the emergency is addressed.

CommunityAIR has repeatedly insisted that these provisions be enforced by the TPA.

They are not.

o       The prohibition of the dumping of toxic chemicals into the City sewer system:

“The Lessee shall not discharge, cause or permit to be discharged or howsoever to pass into the sewer systems, storm drains or surface drainage facilities at the demised premises, if any, or elsewhere any noxious, contaminated or poisonous substances…”

De-icing fluid used at the Island Airport is, according to TPA CEO Geoff Wilson

“collected through a series of catch basins on the main apron which is separate from the storm water drainage sewers and discharge areas.


From the catch basin, the drainage flows to the Island’s sanitary treatment facility…”

De-icing fluid is commonly composed of ethylene glycol and toxic additives. The US Environment Protection Agency states :

Aircraft deicing/anti-icing fluids (ADFs) typically contain water, glycols, and additives. The toxicity exhibited by ADFs is due in part to the presence of glycols (which typically make up approximately 45% to 65% of the total fluid by weight when applied), but is also due to the additives contained in the fluids. Although additives comprise a small percentage of ADFs (e.g., less than 2%), they may be responsible for a disproportionate share of the toxicity of ADFs.

… The identity of the actual chemicals used as additives is not known because the ADF manufacturers claim this information confidential.

A recently-released draft Master Plan  for the Island Airport says tight physical constraints at Toronto’s Island Airport make provision of a proper de-icing facility impossible.

Here’s what the Plan states:

The runoff of effluent from the de-icing operation is captured at catch basins located strategically on the apron and directed to below-grade storage facilities. From there, the runoff is released to the municipal sanitary system….Given the tight physical constraints of the airport, particularly in the vicinity of the terminal building, there is no opportunity to provide a centralized de-icing facility [at page 15].

Lester B. Pearson Airport has a centralized de icing facility where the toxic fluid is captured and recycled.