The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has a transportation dilemma. The GTA is the beating heart of Canada’s economy, but while its population and economy are growing at break-neck speed, its transportation facilities are becoming a bottleneck, which can be a safety hazard. Canada relies on aviation to connect the economy to the world and to unite the second largest nation in the world. The next big leap forward in aviation safety in the Toronto region will happen on the ground in North Pickering on land carefully assembled and protected, waiting for its new airport.
New aircraft technology has made aviation safer, more cost effective and more capable every year. However, Toronto’s airports are lagging behind international safety standards, and they lack the capacity to expand to meet these standards. How do we meet this challenge? Building a new airport in Pickering will provide the space needed to provide the next level of aviation safety. It will enhance the heart of the Canadian economy by supporting the Toronto region’s rapid growth. Aviation safety will be improved for pilots, travelers and local residences who live around our existing airports. New airport design standards and technology which can’t be incorporated into existing airports due to space and other limitations, will be integral to the new airport build. Pickering Airports intended location was carefully selected and planned to permit a facility that would be both safe and neighbor friendly.
Below is a video of the approach to runway 26 at Waterloo airport, a 2 hour drive away from Pickering. It shows the lighting in front ( extending out to 2400 ft) and around the area needed for the safest possible instrument based approach to land. Unfortunately, the existing airports in the eastern GTA ( Oshawa for instance ) do not have the space needed for the runway length and lighting required for this type of approach.
At airports in the Toronto region that cater to utility and general aviation, air traffic is increasing. For example, despite the pandemic, activity in September 2020 was above 2019 levels at the Oshawa airport. During September, aircraft line ups for take-off at the Waterloo airport were often a half-dozen or more aircraft long.
Over the last two decades, a dramatic improvement in aviation safety has been underway in Canada. Professional pilot training combined with technology advances are making a difference. New aircraft technology includes more reliable solid-state avionics, GPS navigation, and active traffic detection systems. Older, smaller and less powerful piston and jet aircraft are being replaced with modern airframes and improved, more reliable engines. Taking this trend to the next level requires something more, improved aviation infrastructure. The majority of aircraft accidents in Canada happen in and around our airports. But unfortunately, our federal government has failed to provide leadership on this issue.
Across our nation, Nav Canada, the private corporation responsible for air traffic control, is closing airport control towers, reducing staff and cutting services to save money. The Federal government has stepped back from anything resembling a national airport strategy. It is still delaying the new airport in Pickering, despite a recent report showing a workable business case to entice private funding, and a suggestion to break ground in 2026. To improve aviation safety the new airport needs to be built as quickly as possible. Beginning as an industrial utility airport, passenger capacity can be added as needed.
Pickering Airport will improve aviation safety in a number of ways. It will reduce congestion by providing new capacity to existing airports, all of which are expected to remain open. It will have new, larger and longer runways with enhanced lighting that will allow improved approach limits in bad weather compared to nearby Oshawa Airport. Today, Oshawa cannot implement lower instrument based approach limits due to lack of the required space and community support to expand the runways and add the required high intensity approach lights.
Unlike Pearson and other Toronto area airports, Pickering Airport’s new runways will have a Runway End Safety Area (RESA) that will meet new international safety standards. More than 16 years after the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) recommended that Canadian airports build 300 meter overrun areas for runways, Toronto area airports including Pearson have not been able to comply in many cases. Like Pearson, most Toronto area airports are hemmed in by residential and commercial development and simply do not have the space.
The following video of a small aircraft overrunning the end of a runway in the eastern Toronto region is a dramatic demonstration of why a RESA is important:
Pickering Airport will also provide space for commercial and industrial operators to invest in and to build the new facilities they require for safe storage, maintenance and operation of new technologically advanced aircraft. It will provide a safe home for entrepreneurs to let their dreams take flight and to provide new jobs for our growing suburbs. Unlike Oshawa and other older airports in the region, it will do so kilometers away from the built up residential areas.
Building a new airport in Pickering will save lives, support our economy, improve the quality of life for residents and create jobs along the way. We need the federal government to show some leadership or follow the lead of local elected officials who support Pickering Airport, or at least get out of the way of the development of new infrastructure.
- The problem with runways at Canada’s major airports | CBC News
- Approach lighting system – Wikipedia
- Fatal civil airliner accidents by region 1945-2020 | Statista