Port denies airport danger without bridge for rescuers

Brian Iler —

CommunityAIR has obtained a letter issued by the Ports Toronto in response to the CBC report of a study that concludes that a bridge to the Island Airport is essential to deal with a major crash like the one that occurred recently in Taipei.

In typical Ports Toronto fashion, its Airport Manager, Gene Cabral, attacks CommunityAIR, with this:

In light of an unfortunate attempt made yesterday by an unqualified critic and known detractor of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport to use an outdated,22-year- old document and inaccurate information to call into question the current emergency preparedness of our airport …

The study, prepared by an intergovernmental panel of experts and available from CommunityAIR, calls for a bridge as the only way to get the required

“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.”

Cabral’s letter gives only bald safety assurances, and does not rebut in any way the report’s expert conclusions.

“Where is the expert report that confirms that the safety standards set out in the 1993 report can be met without a bridge?” asked Brian Iler, Chair of CommunityAIR. “We’d be pleased to be corrected, and the public would be relieved to know that their safety is assured. The discovery of this long-buried study raises huge questions that call for a very substantial answer. Surely that expert report would have been a precondition of the commercial expansion of the Island airport’s business in 2006.”

Cabral fails to address the thrust of that 1993 report – that the absence of a bridge makes it impossible to get the necessary vehicles to the crash site in sufficient time.

CommunityAIR has asked Ports Toronto and the city if any study exists that confirms the safety standards cited in that report are currently met, in the absence of a bridge. Neither Ports Toronto nor the City has indicated such a study exists.

The study assumes a 50-passenger plane crash. Porter’s Q400 carries, if full, 70 passengers. And there is far more commercial traffic through the Airport now than there was when the study was done. Given those facts, rather than being outdated, the necessary conclusion is that safety concerns are more serious today.

One might ask why the vast majority of Q400 flights experiencing difficulty out of the Island Airport choose Pearson for the emergency landings?

Is a bridge even possible? We are advised that the erection of the Porter terminal, recently sold for, apparently, hundreds of millions of dollars, precludes the construction of a bridge.

Brian Iler is chairman of CommunityAIR