The infrastructure paradox: How building Pickering airport can help fight global warming.

The infrastructure paradox: Building a regional reliever airport for Toronto could save 86 million liters of jet fuel and 197,000 metric tons of Green house gas emissions a year by reducing congestion and improving efficiency at other airports. It would take 57,000 acres of prime farmland to grow 86 million liters of corn ethanol based fuel.

The Toronto region will continue to grow. How do we do this sustainably? There is an easy way to reduce Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, secure our food supply and allow our economy to grow all at the same time. All we have to do is build an airport, specifically Pickering airport.

How is this possible? Because a new regional airport in Pickering can save fuel by improving the efficiency of our aviation infrastructure and reduce GHG emissions in three ways that congested Toronto Pearson airport cannot.

First it will provide the capacity Torontos jet aviation infrastructure needs to avoid fuel consuming congestion. When an airport nears capacity, as Toronto Pearson is projected to, aircraft are delayed using either flow control or holding pattern procedures. Such is the case at Heathrow airport in the U.K. At heathrow half of all arrivals are placed into a hold before landing, wasting more than 200 tons ( 200,000 liters) of fuel daily. That’s 73 million litres of jet fuel wasted every year.

Second, it will enable Toronto Pearson International airport to have a more homogenous traffic flow. Pickering will be a close by, less expensive alternative to Pearson airport. It will naturally draw smaller, slower regional aircraft that usually only need minimal services and a modern 5000ft+ runway. Even if just the bottom 5% of Pearson airports smaller and slower traffic is offloaded to a new Pickering airport, the operational efficiency of all aircraft using Pearson will improve measurable. This is due to larger faster aircraft no longer having to slow down to follow smaller slower traffic in front of them on arrival.

To slow down, a large passenger jet in level flight will burn up to three times the fuel with its flaps out and gear down and generate considerably more noise than it does in a clean configuration. With 1100 flights at Pearson every day, saving even a 100 liters of fuel on part of these flights will add up to millions of liters saved annually. The hundreds of thousands of Toronto Citizens close to Pearsons flight paths will also appreciate the change.

Third, leveraging a less congested homogeneous traffic flow mentioned above enables the use of new digitally enhance procedures call RNP (Required Navigational Performance ). WestJet Flight Operations estimates that utilizing RNP approaches at Kelowna and Abbotsford airports is saving 265,000 and 285,000 liters respectfully of fuel annually just with a handful of daily flights. This translates to a reduction of 677 and 728 metric tons of GHG emissions each year. The new airport in Pickering will have RNP procedures, but far more importantly, it could also enable Pearson airport to utilize RNPs as well by offloading and streamlining its mismatched traffic congestion.

if just a fraction of the 1100 daily aircraft at Pearson utilize this new technology, what the 7 daily westjet flights into Abbotsford saves in a year, Pearson could save in one week. Thats 13 million liters of jet fuel a year. Combined with the savings from avoiding heathrow style congestion ( 73 million litres ), building Pickering airport could save at least 86 million litres of jet fuel annually.  

Each liter of fuel burned produced 2.3kg of CO2, not including the emissions created by refining that fuel. 86 million litres equals about 197,000 metric tons of GHG emmissions each year.

As a Bonus, Pickering airports location will reduce travel times and save fuel for many east Toronto region residents driving to the airport.  The new airport is located next to highway 407, less than a 40 minutes drive from downtown Toronto. The reduction in fuel consumed by local passengers who today drive through heavy traffic to Pearson or more distance airports, such as Hamilton or Buffalo, can add up to hundreds of millions of liters saved annually. Pickering airports ability to improve aircraft operational efficiency at both Pickering and Pearson airports will reduce wait times for travelers and improve Canada’s economic efficiency as a whole.

A final bonus, we get to save farm land for food production as well. This year, more than 50% of North Americas corn crop is going towards ethanol production. Saving fuel means our farmland can grow more food for a hungry world. An acre of corn ethanol produces 1500 liters. An acre of Pickering airport could save many times this amount of fuel annually. To grow 86 million liters of fuel would require 57,000 acres of prime farm land. 

40 years ago the federal government of the day purchased and set aside land for an airport. Driven by rapid growth and the quest for fuel efficiency and GHG reduction, the time for Pickering airport has arrived!


The WestJet study can be found on the NavCanada website :

Information on how much GHG is produced per liter of fuel can be found here:


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