Former GTAA Strategic Planner: How Big is too Big?

Former GTAA Strategic Planner Raises Concerns on Size and Scale of Island Airport Expansion PorterWaterfront TORONTO - Porter Airlines is proposing that the TPA extend the runways to accommodate jets. In essence there are four distinct elements to the proposal - extending the runway beyond the existing shore of the island; serving long haul destinations; using larger aircraft and introducing jets. In early 2013 Porter stopped releasing operating statistics that are common in the industry. At the time their system wide load factor (the percentage of available capacity that is actually used) was about 60%. This compares to the almost 90% for Air Canada and WestJet giving it considerable room to grow under its existing fleet and route structure and level of activity In the simplest form airports consist of three interdependent systems - airside, terminal and groundside. The capacity and processing rates of all three systems must be in balance for the airport to operate efficiently and without congestion. Eventually expansion at any airport will be restricted by the limitations of one system or even one sub system. Decisions made by TPA with respect to the airside and terminal will affect the groundside but since this mainly lies beyond the airport boundaries it becomes the city’s problem and responsibility to manage. The capacity of a facility is often expressed in the number of planes or passengers that can be processed in a busy hour that is referred to as the peak hour. Expanding the size of the facility or increasing throughput by changing operational processes can increase the peak hour capacity. Based on the current 16 slots per hour, 74 seats in the Q400 and a 60% load factor, about 710 passengers flow through the airport in a peak hour. A report commissioned by the TPA, and posted on the city's airport review website, shows that the peak hour passenger count can increase to 1,065 solely on the basis of Porter achieving the industry standard load factor of about 90%. This will further increase to 1,836 passengers in the peak hour once the expansion is completed and the number of slots increases to 24. What changes to the three systems are needed to accommodate traffic two and half times the current levels? The scope and impacts of the full airport expansion program have yet to be disclosed. Will the larger aircraft require new and larger hangars on the island for line maintenance? How will the apron accommodate the larger aircraft? Will the increased number of passengers on each flight with more baggage require terminal expansion? Is pre-clearance still being considered? How will the already stressed groundside cope with the increase in hourly passenger volume due to larger aircraft or any increase in load factor? Will changes to de-icing methods or collection systems be required to contain spent fluids? Will short haul flights be displaced by long haul flights? Who will backstop the debt by providing a revenue stream if Porter fails? Unfortunately the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) has no plan to deal with these issues. Rather, it is content to stay out of the debate. It has offered to complete a full environmental assessment (EA) AFTER council renders a positive decision. It has offered to address some issues in the Master Plan AFTER a positive decision has been rendered. Sadly the items covered in an EA or Master Plan need to be dealt with BEFORE a decision is made. The capacity of an airport is determined by the capacity of its most constrained system. At Billy Bishop that system is likely the groundside. Perhaps its capacity, and by extension the capacity of the airport, has already been reached. The objective is not to find ways of creating the biggest airport and shoehorning it into a confined space to the detriment of other functions. Rather it is to define the role, size and type of airport most compatible with the best overall plan for the city and then live within those bounds. ______________________ Background and Disclaimer:
Tom Driedger worked in the airport industry for over 40 years. Beginning with Transport Canada in Ottawa he held positions in Vancouver and Edmonton before moving to Toronto and later transferring to Greater Toronto Airports Authority in 1996. He retired in 2013 as Senior Manager, Strategic Planning. NoJetsTO met with Mr Driedger. In his view Porter’s project has its four distinct elements, each with it own set of problems (runway expansion, long haul flights, larger capacity aircraft and jet powered planes) making it inappropriate for the type of airport he envisions. In his words “the objective is not to find ways of creating the biggest airport and shoehorning it into a confined space. Rather it is to define the size and type of airport most compatible with the best overall plan for the city & local area and then live within those bounds.” Given the considerable common ground between our views and those of Mr Driedger, we are posting some of his background notes. These views are his and his alone. They do not represent the views of Transport Canada, and/or the GTAA .