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Porter intends to fly jets out of Billy Bishop Airport

TORONTO – Porter Airlines announced Wednesday it hopes to fly Bombardier jets in and out of Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport.

In December, Bombardier announced an unidentified buyer from North America intended to purchase 12 CS100 jets, with an option for 18 more.

Porter confirmed Wednesday that it is the buyer.

The company also said it will be asking for two amendments to a deal that would allow the company to operate the CS100 jets out of the island airport.

The first would allow Porter to use the aircraft and the second would allow Porter to extend the runway by 168 meters.

Under the 1983 Tripartite Agreement which allows propeller planes to fly in and out Billy Bishop Airport, jets are not allowed to land at the airport.

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But Porter Airlines President and CEO Robert Deluce says Bombardier jets are quiet enough for a downtown airport.

Related: Porter’s big plans could mean lower airfares for all

The airline currently flies smaller, turbo-prop planes.

Area residents say the smaller propeller planes can be loud at times and worry about increased noise from larger jets.

“I can’t see large commercial jets flying in and out of the area or the construction that they’d be doing on the airport really being a benefit to this neighbourhood. I think it would really disrupt the community,” Rob, who lives in the area and did not give his last name, told Global News. “I can’t imagine a passenger jet being all that quiet even if it is the quietest technology out there.”

However, Porter Airlines officials assured critics the CS100 jets are among the quietest jets available.

“We chose the Bombardier C-Series aircraft because they are the world’s quietest commercial jets in production,” said Deluce,  in a press release. “Bombardier CS100 is a brand new aircraft that is tailor made to operate in downtown urban airports.”

Bombardier has touted the jets as “whisper jets” idea for flying near commercial or residential areas.

Before Porter can begin to fly the new Bombardier jets into Billy Bishop Airport Toronto city council, the federal government and the Toronto Port Authority must agree to change the 30-year-old agreement.

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The Toronto Port Authority – which officially operates the airport – said it will not “consider any change” to the 1983 agreement without a determination from Toronto city council.

However, opinions vary among the city’s 44 city councilors.

Some city councillors believe changing that agreement could have unintended consequences.

“We can’t just restrict the kind of jets,” Councillor Karen Stintz said. “The reason that the planes are used today is because of the runway. Once you lengthen the runway it becomes much more difficult.”

Councillor Adam Vaughan echoed Stintz’ concern saying any jet would be allowed to land at Billy Bishop Airport if the city council agrees to Porter’s request.

“The residents who live in south Etobicoke and south Scarborough who will see not just Bombardier jets but any jet – corporate jets included –  fly in and out of this airport,” Vaughan said. “The impact for noise and for disturbance is more than just a Ward 20 issue, this is a city of Toronto issue.”

Vaughan also pointed to a host of environmental issues that arise from planning an expansion of the runway.

“You’ve got fish habitat. Clean drinking water, the enjoyment of Ontario place and on the Toronto islands, let alone Queen’s Quay and Harbourfront Centre – all of these issues are impacted heavily, heavily by this proposition,” Vaughan said.

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Councillor Doug Ford however came out strongly in support of Porter’s plans saying that without the airline “there’d be a cornfield over at the airport right now.”

“I support it. I think it’s great for the people of the city and give them more opportunities to fly to further places from a very convenient location,” Ford said. “You never know what council is going to do but it’s the right thing for the city.”

Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, refusing to immediately come out for or against the proposal, was unsure whether Porter could get the deal past city council.

“I think council needs to look at the proposal. I think it’s going to be a difficult sell to this council in these conditions and in this environment.”

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