Toronto-Pearson tries to quiet the skies on summer weekends

Lester B. Pearson airport in Toronto is Canada’s largest hub (photo: Toronto-Pearson).

Toronto Lester B. Pearson International, by far Canada’s busiest airport, is offering nearby residents some peace on weekends this summer, trying flight patterns that avoid overhead traffic on alternating weekends.

The plan follows on a trial in 2018, that saw parallel runways used in a new pattern for its three east-west runways.

One runway will be used for landings on weekends, and one used for departures, in a pattern that gives residents at the unused ends of the runway some relief from jet noise. The direction and runways would switch the following weekend.

A survey conducted after the 2018 trial suggests two-thirds of residents want the pattern repeated this summer. The 2019 programme starts Saturday and runs through September 8th.

BELOW: A map released by Toronto-Pearson showing traffic patterns to offer residents partial relief from airplane noise (source: Toronto-Pearson).

The hope is that residents can plan their backyard activities based on times when there will be fewer planes overhead. Pearson calls the plan “partial relief.” Residents in other zones may see an increase in in flights, depending on overall traffic, though most airports see fewer flights on weekends.

“When relief is possible,” the airport advises on its website, “we’re using a Land 1/Depart 1 configuration, which only uses two of the three runways—one for arrivals only and one for departures only. This is only possible when traffic levels are low. When traffic levels are higher, we need to use the third runway to accommodate the additional arriving and departing planes, which means that relief isn’t possible.”

The airport says residents will notice the biggest change in the early mornings and late evenings.

Toronto handled 49.5 million passengers in 2018 and is a hub for both Air Canada and Westjet. The airport authority says, however, rising passenger numbers are not automatically leading to more flights, as airlines deploy larger planes and fill them more consistently. The airport authority says the number of seats per passenger aircraft movement increased from 113 in 2014 to more than 139 seats last year.

Vancouver International Airport uses a similar runway concept, generally using its north runway for landings and closing it overnight, to avoid disturbing nearby residents.

Toronto also has parallel north-south runways which are not part of the test. Statistics show they are not heavily used, particularly in the summer months.

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