Safety concerns continue at Toronto Island Airport
July 7 2003, Toronto — Community AIR extends its sympathies to family and friends of those on board the twin-engine aircraft, which crashed this morning on its approach from Chicago to the fog-bound Toronto Island Airport. The cause of the crash remains unclear and we will need to learn more about its circumstances.
However, any crash in proximity to the Toronto Island Airport raises concerns for the safety of 50,000 Torontonians who live under and adjacent to the main flight approaches and for the thousands of residents and tourists who use boats and ferry services in the Toronto harbour. Community AIR continues to press for the closure of this inappropriately sited airport, which is located in the high-density heart of Toronto. Last week, aircraft operating under visual flight rules (VFR) from the Island Airport were grounded, because of visibility problems caused by smog. Visibility was impaired again today by a combination of fog, smog and light rain, conditions that are more prevalent at this airport than at Pearson International Airport. Aircraft are rerouted to Pearson when fog or heavy smog occurs at the lakefront airport.
The small footprint of the Island Airport, its short main runway and the close proximity of thousands of residents, only a few hundred metres away from its main flight approach, are matters of ongoing concern. Unlike Pearson Airport, where the flight approaches are obstacle free, the pilot’s bible, The Canada Flight Supplement, publishes a series of cautions about the Toronto Island Airport. It identifies a number of obstacles to be avoided on approach. These include the 700-foot high stack of the Hearn generating plant, high-masted ships that ply immediately under the final approach and a high flagpole in Coronation Park.
In one crash, an aircraft struck one of the current Toronto Island ferries several decades ago. The twin-engine plane hit the stack of the ferry and glanced off into the water, killing those on board. A direct hit on a heavily populated ferry would be catastrophic.
On July 11, 2001, a light aircraft crashed into Toronto Bay, immediately adjacent to the Hanlan’s Point ferry route. Fortunately, it missed the ferry, which assisted in the rescue of the pilot.
The increasing intensification of housing, community centres, schools, culture and recreation around the airport and the proposed $20-billion redevelopment of the Port lands, immediately under its main approach, all make the continuation of this airport inappropriate. A scheme, to add 200 flights or more a day by 80-passenger commercial airliners to the current mix, will exacerbate safety concerns at this woefully inadequate airport.
Pearson International is a state-of-the-art airport undergoing a multi-billion dollar expansion, with none of the approach problems experienced by the Toronto Island Airport. Nor is it as prone to lake related weather events. Pearson is soon to be linked to Toronto’s downtown core by a fast and frequent train service. The Island Airport, by contrast is at an historic low point. Only seven scheduled return flights each weekday still remain to Ottawa to serve subsidized federal politicians and bureaucrats.
A few months ago, Chicago closed Meigs Field, the Toronto Island Airport’s sister airport due to safety and security concerns. Meigs Field will become a park. The time is past due to close Toronto’s disruptive and dangerous Island Airport.