An increase in the number of flights to and from Toronto’s Island airport will disturb users of clothing-optional Hanlan’s Point Beach, a local community activist group says.

CommunityAir (CAIR), a volunteer resident association opposed to the expansion of operations at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA), says “run-ups” – running aircraft engines for maintenance purposes – will produce “ear-splitting sound.”

“Run-ups are incredibly loud and the community has been complaining about them and saying that they should be conducted elsewhere and not in the middle of their neighborhood,” says CAIR chair Brian Iler. “They have to run the engines for 10 to 20 minutes at full-throttle to make sure there are no problems, to make sure the engines are working fine. When that happens… the beach will be unusable.”

Iler says the bulk of the run-ups occur on the weekends when Hanlan’s Point Beach is at its busiest.

Further adding to beachgoers’ woes may be the proposed installation of two U-shaped noise barriers at the airport, one with the open end pointing at the Island Yacht Club, the other pointing at Hanlan’s Point Beach. The barriers are intended to divert loud aircraft noise away from nearby waterfront residences, but Iler says they will direct it right at the beach.

And the noise may be about to get louder.

The airport is operated by the Toronto Port Authority (TPA), which announced in December that it will increase the number of daily flights permitted to and from the airport. A timeframe for the increase has not yet been set, but the number of departures and landings – which is now limited to about 110 flights per day – could rise to as many as 212.More flights mean more run-ups.

Regional airline carrier Porter Airlines, which runs out of the airport, opened a new, larger terminal in March to accommodate more flights and to allow for the use of its facilities by other airlines.

“The TPA will be releasing a request for proposals in the next few weeks, open to all qualified carriers who wish to apply to operate out of the BBTCA,” says TPA president and CEO Geoffrey Wilson.

When asked if the barriers will impact the beach, Wilson says only that, “The noise barriers will direct aircraft engine noise away from areas of population as they are designed.”

Iler says his group has told Port Authority officials that run-ups don’t belong at the Island Airport, and that engine maintenance should be done elsewhere.

“There is no place that really isn’t going to be horrendously affected by the run-ups, and they really need to move their maintenance operations to Pearson, where they belong,” he says. “There aren’t residential communities there.”

But city councillor Adam Vaughan, who also opposes expansion of the airport, doesn’t believe that will happen, saying the move would be too cost-prohibitive for Porter.

“The only place they can afford to operate is downtown because they control the environment,” says Vaughan. “Effectively, the lease they have and the terms and conditions they have in place give them the run of the airport for very little.”

“It’s very, very frustrating… because the Port Authority answers to nobody, operates under its own rules and regulations, creates nothing but disturbances for people around it and takes no responsibility for its conduct,” continues Vaughn. “So – sound barriers or no sound barriers, new terminal or no new terminal – that airport is a busy one, and the more planes you land there, the noisier it’s going to get. That means that pristine areas like the Toronto Island and recreational spots like Hanlan’s Point and the sailing facilities are going to have to put up with a lot more noise in the next few years, even with current levels of operation.”
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