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Porter Airlines wants ‘exemption’ to fly CS100 jet

Apr 17, 2013 5:43:49 PM - thestar.com

Porter Airlines president and CEO Robert Deluce wants to get “an exemption” for the CSeries airplane to fly at Toronto’s island airport, but not lift the ban on jets altogether.

“We think that’s the elegant way of doing it,” said Deluce during a meeting with the Star’s editorial board on Wednesday. “I don’t think it really ultimately is about jets versus turboprops. It’s been about noise.”

But no formal request for that proposed change, along with a runway extension into the lake, has been made yet.

Deluce said he is talking with Toronto city councillors to discuss the Porter proposal unveiled last week, but added a formal request letter would likely be sent “within weeks.”

The island airport is governed by a tripartite agreement, signed in 1983, by the city, the federal government and the Toronto Port Authority, which operates the airport.

Any changes to the rules that govern the airport, everything from hours of operation to permitting jet airplanes, would need signoff from all three.

Both the federal government and the port authority have signalled they will wait to hear from Toronto city council first.

That’s where the battle will be – with some councillors like Adam Vaughan and Pam McConnell vocally criticizing Deluce’s proposal, especially the decision to announce the plan last week before rule changes were even sought.

Others like Karen Stintz, who have been Porter supporters, have signalled their opposition to the idea of jets landing at the island airport.

Porter has placed a conditional offer for 12 new CS100 planes, with options for another 18, but it must get approvals to fly them at the island airport. Bombardier, the airplane maker, also must meet noise standards.

The 107-seat jet, which is currently under development in Montreal, is set to have its first test flight by the end of June.

It would extend Porter’s reach across North America and possibly to the Caribbean because the current fleet of Q400 turboprops can only fly shorter distances.

“We don’t favour 737s or A320s or other airplanes like that being allowed in,” he said. “Because quite frankly, we have difficulty appreciating how the airport could continue to operate and run, and still be in compliance (of noise rules).”

It was a veiled reference to rivals like Air Canada and WestJet that have said if jets are permitted at the island airport, they would want access, too.

Deluce argued that the CSeries jet is the quietest plane in production – and that strict noise restrictions should remain in place at the island airport.

“It ensures that airport 20 years from now will still be a relatively small operation, and will never grow to the extent that some of the other airports have grown to including Pearson and elsewhere,” he said.

“We do believe noisy, not so environmentally friendly, and definitely less than state-of-the-art technology aircraft should not come into this airport,” he said.

When asked whether it made more sense to lift the jet ban, but include strict conditions that planes cannot use the island airport if they exceed specific noise levels, Deluce paused.

“I’m not sure that it would be viewed necessarily positively by those who work and live right on the waterfront,” he said. “That’s really something for them and council to ultimately decide.”

Canada, Ontario: (Latest Stories)