Decision on Porter CSeries plan may wait until 2015

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Porter Airlines’ proposal to operate the Bombardier CS100 at Billy Bishop Toronto City airport will be considered by Toronto’s city council on 1 April, however a final decision on the plan is not expected until 2015 at the earliest.

“The 2015 timeline for the decision is now the likely way forward,” says Porter, referring to a city staff report that recommended a final decision on the proposal wait until next year to give the public and authorities more time to consider it.

That report was discussed during a 25 March executive committee meeting, in which councillors voted to put the proposal on the agenda for consideration at at a full city council hearing next week. In this upcoming meeting, councillors will decide on whether to allow the city to negotiate with the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) and the Canadian government on aspects of the plan, says Porter.

Nearly 200 Toronto residents, businesses and organisations were listed to speak at the meeting. Views ranged from full-fledged support to outright opposition of the proposal, with some raising concerns about how opening the airport to jets would affect noise, traffic, air quality and boating on the Toronto waterfront.

Before Porter could operate the CS100 at Billy Bishop, Toronto, the TPA and the Canadian government would have to agree to lift a ban on jets at the airport in place until 2033. The TPA would also have to approve to extend Billy Bishop’s nearly 1,219m (4,000ft) runway by up to 200m on each end to accommodate the aircraft, which needs more space than the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprops in the airline's fleet today.

Porter, which first announced a conditional order for 12 firm CS100s and 18 options in April 2013, has said that it wants to start flying the jets from Billy Bishop to cities as far away as Vancouver and Los Angeles in 2016.

When asked if that timeline is still feasible given the pace of the negotiations, Porter says: “We’re assessing that timeline and its implications and will adjust accordingly. This will become clearer after a decision at council is made and the relevant parties have initial discussions.”

Councillors upheld a motion to limit commercial jets to 25% of daily slots at Billy Bishop if the proposal goes forward. The airport caps traffic at 202 slots, of which Porter occupies 172. Air Canada uses the remaining slots for flights to Montreal through partner Sky Regional.

The city staff report recommends a three-phase approach for limiting peak traffic at Billy Bishop if Porter gains approval to operate the 107-seat jets there, keeping the total slots at 202 for at least the next few years.