By Mark Brooks
Traffic at Oshawa airport is now above pre-pandemic levels. The hangars at airports in the Toronto region are full, some with a waiting list of commercial and private aircraft. At Oshawa a flight school is being culled to reduce noise. Jobs and millions in economic activity are being lost due to the lack of utility and general aviation capacity. Now a new federal report, called the KPMG ASA report, suggest breaking ground on a utility airport in Pickering in 2026, opening in 2029. With private investors waiting at the ready why wait? Why not build the airport now?
September 2020 aircraft movements at Oshawa Airport surpassed September 2019 levels, according to airport manager Stephen Wilcox during a Sept 29th virtual workshop. Stats Canada reported 10,670 movements at Oshawa for September 2020 , 10% higher than the 9,537 for September 2019. During the workshop City staff also discussed the efforts to reduce aircraft traffic and noise by removing a flight school, the Canadian Flight Academy. This will cost 70 jobs, millions of dollars in economic activity and leave hundreds of students stranded. Culling businesses and aircraft is only a temporary solution. During the workshop, building Pickering Airport was suggested by local residents as a long term solution.
Part of the challenge at the regions smaller general aviation airports is not just the volume but the type of traffic. A growing number of turbo props, helicopters, small jets and other commercial utility aircraft are being added into the mix of general aviation piston aircraft.
Both Buttonville and Oshawa have thousands of homes within a two-mile radius of each airport, and are unable to expand. In contrast, the new airport in Pickering will be surrounded by a green space noise buffer and an economic development zone. Just as importantly, it will have the room for longer runways, overrun areas, hangars, passenger gates, fuel storage and the other services that make an airport work.
Recently there has been a lobbying effort using the pandemic as an excuse to extend the land leases on the Pickering airport lands. This would result in taxpayer-owned land, assembled at great cost for economic development and an airport, being placed in the hands of a select few corporations and individuals for decades to come. This lobbying effort has included the misrepresentation of the contents of the ASA report which states that new aviation capacity is needed.
By value, a third of the world’s goods and services move by air. The new airport in Pickering will be a economic engine powering the Eastern Toronto region into the future. It will increase aviation safety. It will reduce noise for residents in Oshawa. It will create jobs and improve economic efficiency. It is time to push past the misinformation campaign by special interest groups. There is no reason to wait, the time to build Pickering Airport has arrived.