Toronto report recommends pushing back Porter CSeries decision

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Porter Airlines is urging Toronto’s city council to consider its plan to bring Bombardier CSeries jets to Billy Bishop Toronto City airport despite a deputy city manager’s recommendation that it is too soon for councillors to decide whether the airport should be opened to jets.

On 5 December, a Toronto city council executive committee will decide whether the full council should vote to amend a long-standing agreement that bans jet aircraft at Billy Bishop. That vote would take place during a 16 December meeting.

This tripartite agreement among the City of Toronto, the Canadian government and Toronto Port Authority (TPA) expires in 2033. However, it could be amended to open the airport to the CSeries and possibly other in-development jets sooner if the three parties approve the change. Porter and Air Canada operate scheduled service from the airport today with Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprops.

In the report, the city manager says an approval of Porter’s plan would be “premature” due to several outstanding questions about the proposal. It recommends that it submit an update to councillors in March 2015 with more data on plans for the airport and discussion among stakeholders.

The manager says that the tripartite agreement members and the public have not had time to respond to a consultant’s report that focuses on the impacts of opening up the airport to jets. That report was unveiled on 28 November and details the findings of a review that began in May 2013.

The manager adds that Transport Canada has not yet been able to comment on the effects of extending runways at the airport, which is another key part of Porter’s plan. Porter proposed extending the airport’s nearly 4,000ft (1,219m) main runway by 168m on each end when it unveiled the conditional order in April. It then offered a second concept in September that would extend the runway by 200m, noting that the increased distance could allow the aircraft to use less power and make less noise during take-off.

The report says that “there is not a clear direction or plan for airport expansion.” It also says that preliminary test flight data submitted by Bombardier is “insufficient” to confirm that the CS100 variant of the CSeries will meet the noise requirements of the tripartite agreement.

But Porter says that enough data has been submitted for the councillors to make a decision.

“We believe that there is sufficient information available in these studies for city council to conditionally approve our proposal subject to certification of the aircraft and Transport Canada’s approval of the runway extension,” says Porter’s chief executive Robert Deluce in a statement. “There are natural checks and balances built into the process going forward. Should these conditions not be satisfied, then Porter cannot proceed.”

Bombardier and Porter have each confirmed that the noise data for the in-development CSeries jet has been submitted, and the airframer has said that it is “pleased with the results” of the data. The manufacturer has said in the past that the aircraft would have a similar noise profile to the Q400 turboprops that take off and land today at the airport.

Porter says that the 1983 agreement banning jets should be updated to consider allowing the CS100, which it expects will comply with existing noise requirements at the airport. The TPA has said that the CS100 is the only type of jet that appears to meet the criteria, but has said it is waiting for the city to make a decision about the proposal before considering any changes to the agreement.

“Based on the information provided to the City of Toronto by its independent consultants, the TPA believes City Council is now in a position to come to a decision on the concept, before further work continues on all of the necessary elements that would arise as a result of the implementation of Porter’s proposal,” said TPA’s chairman Mark McQueen in a statement.

Porter unveiled its conditional order for 12 firm CS100 aircraft in April, which would be delivered between 2016 and 2018. The deal also includes 18 options and purchase rights for up to six Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprops.