Only a bridge would help Island airport if Taipei-like crash occurs

Brian Iler —

In an exclusive story, CBC reports that a study, recently obtained through a freedom of information request, concludes that a bridge to the Island airport is essential to deal with a major crash like the one that occurred Wednesday in Taipei.

The study (posted with the CBC story, and also available from CommunityAIR) was obtained by CommunityAIR from Transport Canada. It calls for a bridge as the only way to get the required (for a 50-plane crash, not the 70-passenger Q400 used by Porter): “64 emergency vehicles and 201 personnel to access an aircraft crash within 20 minutes. In addition, ambulances with the critically injured must be capable of· returning to the mainland within a 30 minute period of time.”

Lisa Raitt, then Toronto Port Authority CEO, and current Minister of Transport, was referring to this report, when she said in a press release on October 16, 2003:

“The fixed link is a public safety issue. The need for a bridge to get emergency equipment to the airport quickly was identified by an intergovernmental committee almost 10 years ago.” said Ms. Raitt. “In the event of an emergency, it could take up to two hours to get the appropriate equipment over to the Island and that’s not acceptable.”

But the real question is why, in light of this report, Porter’s operations commenced in 2006 at the airport, after newly elected Toronto Mayor David Miller honoured an election promise in 2003 by cancelling the planned bridge.

Minister Raitt, was CEO of the Port Authority throughout the 2003-6 period when the decision was made to ignore this report and proceed with airport expansion with Porter.

CommunityAIR has asked the city if any studies were carried out between since 2003 that conclude that taking up to two hours to get the appropriate equipment over to the airport in the event of an emergency is acceptable. No response was received.

It is indeed fortunate that the Island airport has not yet experienced an emergency such as Wednesday’s in Taipei. However, the risk of one is always present, as that incident has so effectively demonstrated.

Brian Iler is Chairman of CommunityAIR