"In this photo series, I documented the Toronto Islands chain and Billy Bishop Airport over a period of several weeks during which major decisions were made by the Toronto City Council regarding the viability of flying jet aircraft from the Toronto Island Airport."
Jets are currently prohibited from flying out of the the Billy Bishop Airport under the 1983 Tripartite Agreement: a set of conditions and regulations through which the Toronto Port Authority is permitted to rent the airport land from the City of Toronto.
Last year, Porter Airlines suggested a series of changes to the agreement in order to allow for a new breed of jets to fly out of the island airport. Porter’s proposal involves the purchase of Bombardier CS100s, a newly-engineered jet aircraft. Although not yet measured, they are estimated to be four times quieter than traditional jets. Porter’s President and CEO Robert Deluce is branding the planes “whisper jets,” but Bombardier has not echoed this label.
If Porter’s proposal is approved, Porter could double its number of annual passengers from 2.3 million in 2013 to about four million. It is estimated that with the introduction of jets to Porter’s fleet, the airline will likely seek approximately 50 additional flight slots per day within their strict pre-existing time curfew. Because 76 per cent of Billy Bishop’s passengers travel to the airport by car or taxi, the increased passenger capacity will equate to an additional 1.2-1.5 million vehicle rides within the city yearly.
For jets to take-off at Billy Bishop Airport, Porter—in cooperation with the City of Toronto—would need to pave nearly 400 metres of Lake Ontario in order to extend the runway to a sufficient length, another measure which is currently forbidden under the Tripartite Agreement.
NoJetsTO, a grassroots organization attempting to block Porter’s proposal, has raised concerns that the airport expansion will negatively affect the waterfront environment and that the additional flight slots per day will increase the run-off of de-icing fluid into Lake Ontario, as well as create an increased risk of fuel leakage or spills.
In a statement condemning the proposed airport expansion, Edward Burtynsky, a Canadian photographer and artist, referenced his recent work documenting water issues around the world: “Water is not just the ultimate liquid that provides for life but is also something we need to be close to and enjoy.” Currently, 14-17 million people visit Toronto’s waterfront per year, making it the most-visited tourist destination in the city (the CN Tower comes in a distant second, with about three million visitors yearly).
On April 1, Toronto’s City Council voted unanimously to delay a decision on Porter’s proposal in order to conduct more research on the environmental, economic and the health effects of jets flying from Billy Bishop Airport.