Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Landing Blind

Silly silly story from downtown condo owners complaining about airplane noise at Toronto Island Airport.

Bill Freeman, The spokesman for the condo owners is quoted in the article as having said, "We've also just recently learned that after 11 p.m. there's nobody in the [air traffic control] tower ... presumably these pilots are landing blind."

While he has just learned about the control tower opening hours, he evidently has not yet learned that pilot, like most humans, see with their eyes, not their ears. I try to imagine the model of the air traffic control system that is in someone's head to think that the absence of an operating control tower would literally or metaphorically render a pilot blind. The control tower provides no visual information to pilots and any traffic or vectoring would have been provided by the terminal controller. In a high density area with a terminal controller, like Toronto Island, typically the only communication with the tower is a landing clearance and instructions to contact ground for taxi clearance.

I think the commenters on the CBC article have it nailed when they say that the residents are trying to give more credence to their noise complaints by disguising them as safety concerns. Unfortunately this kind of thing is everywhere. You know what happened to Meigs Field. The wonderfully convenient Edmonton City Centre airport is under the same threat. I think I've lost count of the number of petitions I've seen from pilots trying to save local airports. What was once outlying land is now prime real estate and people don't realize how noisy airplanes are until they move in.


david said...

I fly into City Centre fairly regularly in my Warrior (less since Transcapital stopped selling fuel, though -- Porter's *expensive*).

Once I stood on the mainland, directly across from the airport, and watched a Dash-8 take off. I could barely hear it, and probably wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't been looking right at it. Walk another block towards the Gardner Expressway, and I dare any member of CommunityAir to tell me, blindfolded, when a plane is taking off from the airport.

Joanna said...

1. Obviously traffic controllers do everything. Also, pilots rely on the traffic controllers telling them where to go. How will they know what direction to fly otherwise?

2. When traffic controllers go home, they turn off the lights like model employees. Obviously the lights on the side on the runway and along the taxiing routes are off. Not to mention the lights in the control tower. A pilot could fly into it at night!

Geez, I expected better of you. I bet you're only pretending to be a pilot :p

Chris Taylor said...

I am sure the guys quoted in that article are visualising Airplane! where Lloyd Bridges in the tower talks down nervous, sweaty Robert Hays. If nobody is there, who is going to talk them down?!

If you want to read really hilarious compaints, go to the Port Authority's noise complaint summaries. Half the time the residents at the foot of Bathurst get awakened by midnight medevac helos, but they mistakenly think it's Porter breaching curfew. You can tell a fair number are emailing the complaints form in a sleepy haze because there are lots of ALL CAPS and exclamation marks.

The other half of the incidents are aircraft operating within parameters that somebody just thinks are loud.

I would say about 5-10% of the complaints are genuinely actionable; i.e. an aircraft operating over the western part of the Islands below 1000ft (where they should not be that low, according to the "Good Neighbour" policy); or a Porter coming in late beyond curfew.

Anonymous said...

isn't toronto\buttonville at risk of closing and being turned into condos and townhomes?

montreal\st-hubert, montreal's first airport in 1928, now has restrictions on VFR training flights:

1100 0908012200 TIL 0910301100

probably an attempt to bankrupt the flight schools located at the airport.. then turn it into condos and townhomes.

Money Ramboo said...

Joanna: heard of PAL? Pilot Activated Lighting? Pilots can activate runway lights when tower not in operation

Aluwings said...

Always someone wants to "develop" those noisy dangerous wasteful airports into rows of condos and - oh yeah - by the way - make a ton of dough in the process. Do you think?

Before St. Hubert in Montreal there was Cartierville - now totally condo-ized.

I once deadheaded beside a passenger who told me that the controllers land the planes - not the pilots. He KNEW this because his son the military pilot explained it to him (which I'm sure was really an explanation of a PAR approach).

Our aviation jargon also conveys innaccuratly the relationship between controllers, pilots and airplanes. PIlots say things like: "He put me on a heading of xyz..." "The controller slowed us down early, then took us around to the other side of the airport...." - And controllers jargon is even worse - they say things like: "I landed x number of planes an hour..." "I climbed that flight to xx feet while descending that other one...."

All these expressions put the aircraft action verbs onto the controllers. So, how else would a non-aviator understand this language? Not helpful.

Cirrocumulus said...

Rambo: Joanna was being sarcastic.
It's a way of showing up the weakness of someone's argument by pretending to agree with them.

But there is a bit more to the noise issue than "the aerodrome was there first, why didn't you check the area before you bought the house?"
I've lived 25 miles west of London Heathrow for 35 years. The noise issue went away as takeoffs got steeper (we'll never forget Concorde - nice looking thing, climbed like a brick and stopped all conversation for about two minutes). Then the noise issue came back as increasing traffic means there are usually three or four heavy jets grumbling over us on their way in to land or ducking under another airway as they head west. If you'd moved here when it was quiet you'd be especially unhappy with plans to enlarge Heathrow yet again.

Rick Grant said...

Today's Globe and Mail has an editorial, a good one, about the island airport.

Although it is about the renaming of the airport the editorial makes the case that the airport is of far too large a contributor to the city's economy to ever consider shutting it down.


Rick Grant

Aviatrix said...

Renaming it is silly, though. I don't want two Billy Bishop airports in the same province. It's almost as if they want to lessen its prominence by taking away the "city centre" designation. Not that that seems to help YXD much. Local non-pilots call it the muni and the ones I poke to recently had never heard it called city centre. They thought I must be talking about somewhere else.

david said...

If they rename it, will I have to call "Billy Tower" instead of "City Tower"?

In the comments to the CBC article, I mentioned that, if they *have* to rename CYTZ, "Dehavilland Field" would make more sense: the Beaver, Otter, Twin-Otter, Buffalo, Dash-8, etc. represent a real (and very important) Toronto contribution to world aviation, though the name would be better applied to Downsview Airport.

KalAmity said...

I'm just happy that for once someone's trying to rename an airport after something actually RELATED to aviation - and not a Politician - pitew! (- that was a "Wolverton spit" - if you don't get it, not to worry, all you non Corner Gas fans).

SwL_Wildcat said...

I don't get it. The airports were here first, they are well used. If not for some of them Canada would not have been so well explored and settled. Now I am going to buy a house at the departure end of the runway and then launch a complaint about the noise... My only suggestion is... If you don't like the noise then MOVE! These same people don't seem to complain as much about the noise of a 737 when it's taking them on their vacation. Log all the complainers and put them on the "no fly" list.

VI said...

Similar to above comments and airports -- I live on an island. When folks move here I presume they are fully aware of the cost and inconvenience living on an island causes.

But when they're here they start lobbying for "better" connections to the mainland! Arrrgh. If they want all the access (and higher real estate costs) of the mainland, let them stay there!

chephy said...

Fortunately, if you read the comments on stories mentioning the Island Airport, you'll see that the majority of commenters think the airport is a valuable asset and are opposed to shutting it down. The complainers are in the minority and most Torontonians, rightfully, have little sympathy for them. (P.S. I sure hope they don't rename it "Billy Bishop". What a dumb idea, especially given that an airport with that name already exists.)