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The owner and operator of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, PortsToronto, says the existing 40-year-old Tripartite Agreement that governs the airport will need to be reopened almost a decade ahead of its expiry date, thanks to amended Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) that require the construction of Runway End Safety Areas (RESAs).
In January 2022, Transport Canada published updates to the CARs, requiring some Canadian airports to extend their current RESAs from 60 metres to a minimum length of 150 m to minimize the consequences of runway excursions – which occur when an aircraft undershoots, overruns, or veers off the side of the runway. The regulations apply to existing and new runways of all lengths at airports serving at least 325,000 passengers annually.
For Billy Bishop (YTZ) in particular, the airport must complete the construction of additional RESAs by mid-2027. “This will require an update to the existing . . . Tripartite Agreement (set to expire in 2033), as well as design studies, and long-term financial planning and certainty for the capital enhancements,” said PortsToronto’s VP of communications and public affairs, Deborah Wilson, in an email to Skies.
Wilson said the port authority has made a request to the signatories of the agreement (Transport Canada and the City of Toronto) to begin such discussions. The airport has also begun design studies to determine the best options for implementing the RESAs.
“We are doing the work required to make sure we are compliant with this regulation. . . . Regardless of the design, the cost for RESAs will be significant and will require certainty beyond 2033 in order to finance and execute,” added Wilson.
This is not the first time that reopening the 1983 agreement has been discussed within the last decade. About eight years ago, Toronto-based Porter Airlines had suggested amending Billy Bishop’s Tripartite Agreement to allow jets to operate out of the airport. (The current agreement prohibits runway expansions as well as the operation of jets.) Porter has been based out of YTZ since 2006, and recently began operating Embraer E195-E2 jet aircraft out of YYZ, in addition to its Dash 8-400 turboprop fleet.
However, the airline’s proposal to bring jets to Billy Bishop airport was shot down by the federal government at the time.
The topic is likely to be discussed again when the agreement is in the renewal process, but many Torontonians are concerned about noise impacts. The airport has already implemented infrastructure to help reduce noise associated with engine run-up operations, including the construction of a ground run-up enclosure facility — the second of its kind in Canada.
Pierre Poilievre, leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, is reportedly on board with the idea of bringing jets to YTZ, however. Poilievre believes that allowing jets to operate at YTZ would bring numerous benefits, like creating thousands of jobs, reducing gridlock in the city, and generating tens of millions in tax revenue.
According to PortsToronto’s Wilson, the downtown airport currently “generates more than $2.1 billion a year in total economic output, with 2,080 jobs directly associated with the airport’s operations, and a wider 32,400 jobs supported across the economy.”
The airport is expecting to open U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance in 2025 (first announced this past June), which should result in a further increase in economic benefits.